Pubdate: Sun, 10 Oct 1999
Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Contact:  1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL
Author: Inmate, Brixton Jail 


An Inmate Writes Of The Daily Hell Of Life In Brixton Jail

"Locked up for days on end without exercise, education or even library
facilities, it's little wonder that inmates sometimes go off the rails.

"Fights routinely break out, especially on A wing where a huge proportion of
the inmates are heroin or crack addicts on remand.

"This wing is under almost constant 'lock-down', its officers too stretched
to be concerned about the filthy condition of cells where cold-turkeying
addicts bang and wail through the night and violent prisoners bully and
injure weaker cellmates for the pathetic currency of tobacco and spare food.

"As one fellow inmate observed: 'If they took all the druggies and
head-cases out of Brixton, the place would be empty.'

"Urinating and defecating on cell floors, rampaging wild-eyed and bawling
nonsensically around the yard on their rare exercise periods, these poor
souls provide gloomy entertainment for other inmates.

"If they assault other staff, the physical retribution meted out to them by
staff is swift and unchecked.

"Paul Boateng is now forced to address the problems after the governor
warned that Brixton's medical facilities are at crisis point and that if
remedial action is not immediately forthcoming the prison will refuse to
accept more drug-related or mentally ill offenders.

"Home Office statistics show most theft is drug related and most Brixton
inmates are in here on theft charges as a direct consequence of feeding
their drug habit.

"The immediate consequence of Boateng's visit is, ironically, even less
exercise and 'free association', as the management brief staff and, as they
see it, reduce risk.

"If the same politicians who glibly advocate these 'tough' policies as the
panacea for allaying public fears about crime in the community were to spend
a little more thought and money investigating credible alternatives, crises
like this one at Brixton might not be so common. In the meantime there have
allegedly been 21 suicide attempts here in the past month."

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