Prison Torture Continues in the North


The temporary release of terminal ill prisoner Brendan Lillis from Maghaberry prison, following a mass support campaign across Ireland, marked an important first step in the battle for prisoner rights. However the wider policy to punish, brutalise and isolate republican prisoners continues. Regular beatings, brutal strip-searching, denial of legal rights and recreational activities constitutes a callous disregard for the lives of political prisoners.

In May, the family of republican prisoner Harry Fitzsimmons, including his 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, visited him and were traumatised by what they saw.
In their words: “We were shocked by the state of his face - multiple cuts and bruises, he could not be hugged because his ribs were so sore, his jaw and chin is swollen as is his wrist, but it can’t be said if they are broken because he still hasn’t had medical attention, no x-rays, no painkillers, nothing.’ At the moment over 30 republican prisoners are engaged in various actions including a dirty protest. They are demanding full implementation of the August Agreement last year between the Prison Officers Association and republican prisoners which was supposed to bring an end to controlled movement and strip searching. Despite intransigence from the prison administration and NIO, republican prisoners have tried to break the political impasse by proposing the ‘Portlaoise model’ which has thus far been rejected. This model, based on Portlaoise prison, includes replacing complete strip-searching with airport style detectors. 
In recent years Maghaberry prison has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Consistent reports from ‘independent’ watchdogs including criminal inspectorate reports have highlighted the ongoing repressive conditions, neglect, overcrowding and abuse within the prison, pointing out that it is not fit for purpose and one of the ‘worst in the UK.’ Prison kills and rates of prison suicide are staggering and are directly related to the above-mentioned problems, which is akin to torture. 
The North’s prisons are no exception, both at home and globally we are witnessing a gradual erosion of prisoners’ rights and conditions, which where often achieved by militant demonstrations and riots. The gradual privatisation of prisons and repressive legislation using the pretext of ‘war on terror’ or ‘war on crime’ is about creating a prison industrial complex driven by profit and fear, where prisoners are no better than slaves.
As anarchists we recognise that the criminal justice system’s first priority is to defend the status quo and the bosses. Prisons are an integral part of the class system and vital to the survival of capitalism and the preservation of wealth and privilege. 
While the WSM is opposed to state repression we are also opposed to the cul-de-sac of armed republicanism which only serves to further divide the working class in the service of a narrow, militaristic and all too often sectarian nationalism. We support the prisoners’ demands on a humanitarian basis and call for an end to prison censorship and repression of all political prisoners or otherwise. We need to build one campaign and one voice, linking with wider prisoner struggles at home and abroad based on the ‘relatives action committee’ model free of party political control.

This article is from Issue 124 of Ireland's anarchist paper Workers Solidarity November / December 2011