Prisoners FightBack

Prisoner Sues for Violence at HMP Long Lartin

In November 2001 at Manchester County Court ex-prisoner Billy Whitfield brought a civil claim for damages against the Prison Service on the grounds that staff 'supervising' the HMP Long Lartin segregation unit had repeatedly beaten him up.

On the first morning of the hearing the judge pointed out to the counsel for the Prison Service that 'procedural irregularities' in Whitfield's treatment tended to establish the culpability of prison staff, and maybe it would therefore be advisable to come to a financial settlement and avoid a full and costly court hearing. The Prison Service refused.

Billy' Whitfield described being attacked by staff on two consecutive days during March 1997. Their wrath was apparently provoked on the first occasion by his request for a medically recommended diet, already prescribed by the prison doctor. He was physically assaulted by about five screws, placed in 'locks' and dragged to a sensory deprivation special cell where he was beaten again and left for 24 hours. During that time, he was neither fed nor given water; nor was he checked by medical staff, nor charged with any disciplinary offence. These were the 'procedural irregularities' referred to by the judge.

The next day he decided to write to a solicitor about what had happened. He requested the use of a biro from his assailants of the previous day. He was promptly attacked again. Other prisoners objected by hammering on their cell doors; a few refused to slop out or clean their cells in protest, and one complained directly to a member of the Board of Visitors (BOV).

As a result of his treatment, Billy Whitfield was psychologically traumatised and suffered irreparable physical injury. The Prison Service's attempt to defend the screws' actions was dismissed by the judge, who then awarded Whitfield 21,000 pouds damages. All of the screws involved continue to work at HMP Long Lartin and none has been disciplined. The Prison Service has now lodged an appeal against the decision.

John Bowden, HMP Bristol


Fightback at Full Sutton

Following prison protests at HMP Full Sutton in late 2001, Fight Racism Fight Imperialism (FRFI) asked prisoners to send us their accounts or comments on what happened.

  Matthew Fitches: I was one of the ringleaders ghosted for organising the protest on my wing, E,wing. It was peaceful and intended to stop them from constantly cancelling exercise and gym. Eighty of us refused to bang up; only eight or so dissented. Seeing as Full Sutton is an A-category dispersal prison, we at least expect to have exercise and gym on a regular basis.

No notice was taken of the first protest. A second one occurred a few days later. This time roughly 150 prisoners off E, A and F wings refused to lock up. The result was that about 20 Of us were ghosted out, many to blocks (seg units) around the country. Worse was in store for the ones who went to Long Lartin where ill-treatment occurs on a regular basis. I and another good fella went to Wakefield block for a month and were then ghosted to Parkhurst

    John Shelley: The sit-down protests at HMP Full Sutton were a direct result of poor management. Too many changes in too short a space of time, together with an unwillingness to hear the needs of its prisoners are the two main contributing factors which led to a large number of inmates making a stand.

Having arrived at HMP Full Sutton myself in March 2001 it was immediately clear there was a great deal of animosity between management and prisoners. Even then there was a small number of prisoners who spoke out against the rapidly deteriorating conditions. But this was swiftly met with the outspoken inmate being removed from the wing and subsequently transferred out of the prison.

The problems at Full Sutton largely stemmed from the prison being split in two: half the prison being main wing prisoners, whilst the other half is devoted to 'Vulnerable Prisoners' (VPs). Main wing prisoners were left with a bad taste in their mouths when early in 2001 the running of the kitchens was for no apparent reason handed-over Wjhe VPs. it didn't stop there. It then tran--spired that the VPs would enter the visiting room for visits before main wing prisoners, gaining an advantage of around 30 minutes. Main wing prisoners suggested a rota system; management spent months before eventually agreeing, but once again it was to be in the VPs'favour. They would go first onto their visits five days a week, compared to our two - some balance!

More was to come... In May the working week was cut in half, as was the pittance they had the affront to call a wage. Again, this was to give the VPs a chance to work in some of the workshops they had previously been denied. Once more, not satisfied with sharing it evenly, management decided to allocate main wing prisoners the half of the week which just happened to coincide with POA meetings, wing meetings and wing callups, further reducing our earning capacity to less than half what it used to be. To add insult to injury, we were then expected to attend education for the other half of the week, or lose whatever job we had. The problems were never-ending.

The governors' attitudes were to implement changes as quickly as possible, with little regard as to how they would affect the people involved. The show of solidarity by the main wing prisoners at Full Sutton momentarily took control away from the authorities.


Source: Fight Racism Fight Imperialism (FRFI)