Prison suicide death is an endictment of the entire state

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 A 19 year old who died by suicide at Hydebank Wood young offenders centre in south Belfast last year had been locked in his cell for around 22 hours a day because of short-staffing. Allyn Baxter took his own life after disgracefully spending three days on remand for not paying his TV license.

In a damning report from prisoners Ombudsman Pauline McCabe into the Allyn’s death and the string in instances of neglect she found that “problems are so fundamental” that a radical overhaul is needed of the prison regime. Allyn lost his mother when he was 6 and had lived with 12 different foster families, and struggled with alcohol and solvent abuse However, by the time of his death he had a three-year-old son and completed an NVQ in health and social care.

Unfortunately, this tragic death is not the first nor sadly the last, where prisoners are mistreated and cast aside as just another number. Furthermore, the deaths of three prisoners in the North in as many months and ongoing criminalisation and brutalisation of republican prisoners is an entire indictment on not just the prison regime but the entire status-quo which is built on abuse and repression.

Prisons kill, the rates of prison suicide are staggering and are directly related to neglect which translates into torture and the north's prisons are no exception. Prisons are an integral part of the class system and vital to the survival of capitalism and the preservation of wealth and privilege.

The cost of up to 95,000 in housing each inmate every year will be better spent on investing in our social services and addressing the main causes of crime which is poverty, isolation and hopelessness. There will always be crime as long as we continue to uphold social conditions which produce it- gangster capitalism and the state.

While reports such as these play a valuable role in exposing abuse and suffering, they only address part of the picture which is why we need to completely remove the root cause of the problem. We need to improve conditions in the prisons now and assist those who are fighting in the inside and work towards a future without exploitation and oppression.

WORDS: Sean Matthews