STRANGEWAY PRISON RIOT
Roughly 6 years after Johnny Steele his brother Jim and their comrades took over Peterhead prisons punishment block prisoners in Strangeways prison Manchester had similar feelings of their Scottish counterparts and all hell broke loose.
29 years ago one of the longest, bloodiest riots in British penal history kicked off. For it was on April Fools’ Day, 1990, that prisoners at Strangeways took over the prison chapel. The disturbance lasted 25 days and claimed two lives; a prison officer suffered a heart attack and a prisoner, on remand for alleged sex offences, died from wounds inflicted when prisoners ran amok throughout the gaunt Victorian jail.
The men who started the protest that morning had no intention of taking over the prison. After turfing the staff out of the chapel, they began using pews to barricade themselves in, expecting riot squads to attack. Some men made their way into the chapel roof space from where they could see inside the main prison. To their surprise, they saw staff evacuating the wings and landings. The barricades came down and mayhem ensued.
It would seem to me that no lessons have been learned and we need only point to the past and the riots and protests that took place in Peterhead, Barlinnie, Strangeways and numerous others to see the effect overcrowding and lack of meaningful activities has on prisoners.
Last year, virtually all inspections of young offender institutions reported rising violence and enforced idleness among young prisoners. And at the other end of the scale, inspectors found elderly prisoners unable to bath or shower for weeks or even months on end. the suicide rates in prisons are up, especially by younger prisoners. In the past 10 years, 156 18- to 24-year-olds have ended their lives in prison custody. Last year, the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick said the number of self-inflicted deaths in prison were “not acceptable in a civilised country”.
Just today, a report on Guy Marsh prison, Dorset, revealed that managers and staff there have “all but lost control of the jail”. The prison is short staffed and overcrowded. Violence levels there were three times higher than at the last inspection and drug taking was rife. Guys Marsh is meant to be a training prison, but only one in six inmates was in work or training.
Prisons up and down the country are awash with so called legal highs, badly overcrowded and violence as well as suicide is common.
The powers that be know what works with regards rehabilitation but with evermore private prisons being opened there is to much money to be made through the incarceration of men and women who would be better suited in a rehabilitation programme.