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The Anarchist Black Cross was originated in Tsarist Russia to organise aid for political prisoners. In the late 1960s the organisation resurfaced in Britain, where it first worked to aid prisoners of the Spanish resistance fighting the dictator Franco's police. Now it has expanded and groups are found in many countries around the world. We support anarchist and other class struggle prisoners, fund-raise on behalf of prisoners in need of funds for legal cases or otherwise, and organise demonstrations of solidarity with imprisoned anarchists and other prisoners.

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The Separation Centre Expansion Plan

A first instalment linked with the expansion of the inhumane control unit system labelled the Separation Centre (SC) system has opened. 'E' wing at H.M.P. Frankland in Durham, formerly a Vulnerable Prisons (VP) wing dedicated to the management of elderly prisoners, is now an SC for those deemed to present a threat, either in person or by influencing others which cannot be managed within mainstream population. The elderly have been left to fend for themselves having been moved to a normal wing.

E wing contains sixteen cells. It is not yet clear if all of them will be utilized. This wing has recently completed a refurbishment which included hidden microphones for covert surveillance and, transformation of one of the segregation exercise yards through adding barriers to isolate it further, which will now be used only by those on the SC. A gym is located on the wing since the prisoners will not be allowed to access normal facilities. However, it seems that only basic cardiovascular equipment like a running machine and rowing machine are available. Prison Service Instruction 05/2017 which governs the SC system claims that "The Supervision Centre Regime is as broadly comparable to the mainstream population as is possible, with individual risk assessment informing activity and management of the prisoner" however, this is exactly the same basis that the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) operates its regime which can best be described as 'indefinite solitary confinement.

The SC system is blatantly an unofficial CSC system designed to specifically discriminate against Muslim prisoners who are disliked but have not actually done anything to justify a CSC placement. Since the legal ruling in the Bourgess (judicial review concerning holding these prisoners arbitrarily in isolation in segregation units) prison service management have been planning a way round it hence the SC system. Even the name betrays the positive intention of this, SC rather than CSC, prison rule 46a rather than 46, a control unit is a control unit plain and simple.

The first SC victims of the SC are expected to be prisoners who were being held in segregation units, giving them the impression that they are being moved to a slightly better place so will be less likely to resist. Years down the line they may regret their participation in the transfer because by then their passivity will have been displayed as the effectiveness of the SC system and used to justify expansion of the SC system to capture more prisoners to face the psychological torture inherent in control units. It will not take long to fill the 'Field of Dreams' concept of 'if you build it they will come' which is always in play when it comes to prisons.

From at least as far back as the mid 90's the prison service has been fully aware that holding prisoners in these conditions is detrimental to their physical and mental health. The then Chief Medical Officer Sir Donald Acheson completed a report* on the effectiveness of these units on those contained within them who, at that time were the hated and demonised Irish Prisoners of War. The Creation of the SC system can therefore be seen as a direct attack and deliberate act of harm by those legally bound to maintain a duty of care against those today who oppose their political views.

The financial cost of inflicting this harm upon the victims of the SC and, indeed, all control units is more than four times the cost per prisoner held in normal location. At a time when the prison system is in crisis, through underfunding, and is struggling to cope with excessive numbers of prisoners, for exorbitant amounts to be found solely for these invidious purposes, makes clear how much the welfare of prisoners really matters to those operating and managing prisons. The sooner an end to this massive waste of public money occurs the better, close the control units and end the torture.

[* the unpublished 'Review on the Effects on Health in the Special Secure Units at Full Sutton, Whitemoor, and Belmarsh Prisons']

Kevan Thakrar A4907AE
HMP Woodhill
Tattenhoe Street
Milton Keynes