Former prisoners joined campaigners in a protest outside the psychiatrists’ professional body over its support for segregation units. According to the protestors, the Royal College of Psychiatrists ‘whose primary duty should be the welfare of patients’ had ‘endorsed’ close supervision centres (CSCs) as ‘enabling environments’.
The campaign is backed by more than 60 organizations including Legal Action for Women, Payday men’s network, Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association, Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike, Community Action on Prison Expansion, Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, Prisoner Solidarity Network. It also features the support of the former prisons inspector Lord Ramsbotham, miscarriage of justice victim Winston Silcott, Benjamin Zephaniah, American campaigners Angela Davis and Selma James plus a number of practicing psychiatrists.
40 people joined the protest at Royal College of Psychiatrists against their covering up of abuse& #SolitaryConfinement. Many organisations, lots of noise! Are you listening to prisoners & supporters @rcpsych? Read: https://t.co/BUmPfl5czc pic.twitter.com/8THFX6qdpq
— Payday men’s network (@PaydayRTK) June 28, 2021
The coalition argues that CSCs are ‘prisons within UK prisons – segregation units where prisoners are locked in their cell 22 or more hours per day for months or years with no independent right of appeal’. This level of confinement and deprivation of contact with other human beings was ‘comparable to solitary confinement’ and being held in solitary confinement for more than 14 days was a breach of the UN Mandela Rules on the treatment of prisoners. Amnesty International has condemned CSCs (formerly SSUs) as far back as 1997 as ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’.
‘We are part of this campaign because CSCs are racist and women end up picking up the pieces when men are abused within them,’ commented Sara Callaway from Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike ahead of this week’s demo. ‘We will be making our voices heard until the RCPsych stops covering up for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. This campaign was initiated by prisoners and is growing in size – CSCs and solitary must end!’
Kevan Thakrar, imprisoned in a CSC now for over 11 years mostly in solitary, said ‘they cause the majority of its residents to develop major mental illness requiring treatment within the secure hospitals’. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has written to the British Government about Thakrar’s case noting that the UK may be in breach of international law.
According to the campaign, prisoners describe being ‘fed through a hatch and isolated from family and outside support’, attacks from guards that remain unpunished, and complain that there is no transparent process to decide who is placed in the CSC. A 2017 HMP Inspectorate report found that there was “no independent scrutiny of key decisions.”
Approximately half of prisoners held in CSCs are Muslim which, the coalition argues, indicates that these units are ‘institutionally racist’.