Belfast diaries

Diary by TOM MAGILL—————————————————————->

Belfast UK December 5, 6, 7 2013
Ed did an introduction of PICP and its link with the PEETA conference.
We then had a round of introductions including sharing your most ‘impressive’ moment of the year.
It was fascinating to hear of all the impressive prison arts work that is happening throughout Europe.
After lunch we looked at setting Targets and how to organise the partnerships.
There was broad agreement that we needed to be able to define our stakeholders and further, how do we evaluation and measure the social impact of our work?
Doing prison arts education is a lonely and solitary experience, debating important questions like those above with experienced colleagues really helps to ease the isolation and provides insights and answers to these difficult questions.
After the tea break we began to set dates for all the partner meetings and began a discussion about budgets and contributions from each partner. We agreed to continue the discussion on the common budget the next morning.

Phil Scraton, professor of Criminology from the School of Law at Queen’s university Belfast – Imprisonment in Northern Ireland
Phil Scraton joked that the title of our project “Partners in Crime Prevention” should be “Partners in Harm Prevention”
Phil started as a tutor in prison in the 70s. Scraton wrote the book “Prisons under protest” after the ‘uprisings / protests’, the voice of the prisoner is the voice of the prison. Mostly these voices remain unheard, to give them a voice Scraton considers as his academic responsibility.
Phil Scraton’s opinion is: no single prison is a ‘healthy prison’.
Phil’s work has been inspired by the quote from Ariel Dorfman: speak truth to power. One cannot stay silent, but stand up.
Phil quoted the Song by Christy Moore: ‘Your troubles are not mine.’
His talk coincides with the publication of his and Linda Moore’s new book:
http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/the-incarceration-of-women-linda-moore/?K=9780230576681
‘This unique book adopts a rich theoretical, empirical and political perspective to explore the gendered incarceration of women and girls and the marginalization of their needs and rights within predominantly male penal systems.
Focusing on a decade’s research inside prisons in Northern Ireland, Moore and Scraton integrate in-depth interviews, focus groups, regime observation and documentary analysis to examine issues of equality, discipline, mental health, self-harm, abuse and suicide. The independent, primary research engages in controversies regarding the deaths of women in custody, a hunger strike concerning the status of politically-affiliated women prisoners, media revelations of sexual exploitation of women prisoners by male prison guards, and the use of punitive strip-searches and punishment cells for vulnerable women.
Telling the story of female incarceration through the voices and experiences of women, this book provides a rare insight into the destructive and debilitating impact of prison regimes, advancing feminist analysis of women’s incarceration and the criminalization of women. Moore and Scraton’s study raises questions over the potential and limitations of gender specific policies, the silencing of prisoners’ voices and agency, the significance of critical research in voicing prisoners’ resistance and the possibilities of decarceration through adopting an abolitionist agenda.’
Phil talked about the need of ‘breaking the silence.’ And that Critical Research must ‘bear witness, hear testimonies, recover truth and challenge the generic deceit. It must establish the view from below.
In his view, the prison establishment is a managed and manipulated deceit. That is based on security/discipline, care/rehabilitation, secrecy/invisibility and information management.
He quoted Mandela 1994: ‘Prison is designed to break one’s spirit, destroy one’s resolve, exploit every weakness, demolish every initiative, negate all signs of individuality, all with the idea of stamping out the spark.’
He quoted Goffman 1968 re the self and institutional power….the first curtailment of self…the totality of absolutism.
An Australian prisoner Craig in ‘Prisoners on prison’ spoke of:
‘Education and learning in prison is a way of taking back the keys, storming the gates and regaining what it is that everyone should have achieved all along: a place with equality in society.’
Mandela writes about how to survive prison intact, and learning what one must do in order to survive.
Maria writes about ‘optimism of the spirit, coping and getting by, survival and compliance, challenge and punishment.’
• Individual and personal history
• Diversity and differential need
• Collective and political resistance
Phil talked about the complexity and diversity within the NIPS – that houses heterosexual male and female, children and young people, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, racial and sectarian differences, those with disabilities including mentally ill and those with behaviour disorders. On top of this there are also two houses with 60-80 political prisoners.
In Phil’s words the NIPS suffers from institutional malaise and is not for purpose, with management and staff not trained for purpose. There is a culture of non-engagement with prisoners, obstructive work practices and poor industrial relations, in short, a culture of impunity and denial. It is reactionary rather than pro-active with inadequate mental health care, minimum out of cell time and lack of constructive activities. TV has become the ‘soft-pill.’ There are barriers to oversight and monitoring and prison virtually imprisons the child. Independent research is not welcome in prison. ‘What kind of research do you want?’ ask certain educational institutions.
The World Health Organization defined a healthy prison contains the following: 1. Safety 2. Respect 3. Purposeful activity 4. Resettlement.
Prison regimes – and the management of contributing agencies and academic research.
Mental ill health – is isolating and punishing vulnerability, effective care is needed instead of the CBT fallacy. CBT provides 1 hour for prisoners to open up their trauma before they are put back in their cell.
Phil talked of the deceit of the 3 R’s –
Rehabilitation – which has become related to compliance
Resettlement – there is no funding for half way houses
Reintegration – into what…..?
There is resistance to effective monitoring and accountability.
Research should speak truth to power.
Inside Out: identifying and challenging ‘them and us.’
Based on:
• Humanity
• Respect
• Trust
• Mutuality
Personal growth is an opportunity for educational and sustainable interventions affecting change personally, socially and institutionally.
We can’t see prison as an island.
Angela Davis 2003 p103-107: ‘the major challenge is to achieve more humane habitable environments for people in prison without bolstering the permanence of the prison system.

Annie Kelly’s last letter 13 August 2002 aged 19.
Annie was transferred to the male prison hospital. She wrote a harrowing account of the transfer to her sister (Personal Letter, August 13, 2002). 5 It was to be her last letter home. “You wouldn’t believe the way I’m treated. You would need to see it with your own two eyes.” She described how the “control and restraint team landed over and told me I had to take off my clothes and put a suicide dress on.” She refused. The all-male team told her they would hold her down and so she complied.
Then they all held me out in the corridor. I only had the suicide dress on and I was told I could keep my pants cause I’d a s.t. on. But when the men were holding me, they got a woman crew to pull my pants off. That shouldn’t have happened. Then they covered me in celatape to keep the dress closed and handcuffed me and dragged me off to the male hospital. The male hospital was a “dirty kip” and she “stuck it out for 6 days cause they threatened to put me in the male p.s.u. [punishment and segregation unit] if“They’d all love me dead…”: Implications of the Death of Annie Kelly 121 I smashed it.” She “wrecked” the hospital cell and was returned to the Mourne House punishment block. “I’m just relieved to be back.” Still in a “suicide dress,” she had “hung myself a pile of times. I just rip the dress and make a noose. But I am only doing that cause of the way their treating me. The cell floor is covered in phiss cause they took the phiss pot out the other night.” She complained of flies in the cell: “They won’t let me clean it. I haven’t had a shower now in 4 days. I’ve had no mattress or blanket either the past few nights.”
The letter continued: “At the end of the day I know that if anything happens me, there’ll be an investigation. (I never ripped the mattress or blanket nor did I block the spy). So if I take phenumia it’ll all come out.” She wrote that she was not drinking or eating. “I think you can only last 10–12 days without drinking cause then you dehydrate and your kidneys go. I’ve no intention of eating or drinking again, so their beat there. I know they’d all love me dead, but I’d make sure everything is revealed first.” She asked for her sisters to pray for her, to be remembered to the “wains” (young children) and for her solicitor to be told what was happening and visit her “straight away.”
Quoted from: “They’d all love me dead…”: The Investigation, Inquest, and Implications of the Death of Annie Kelly Phil Scraton.

Speaking Truth To Power:
The role of the critical researcher should include:
• Research activism
• Bearing witness
• Personal troubles public issues (C. Wright Mills)
• Alternative accounts
• Truth acknowledgement
• Dealing with the state
• Dislodging contradictions
• Mobilising international standards
• Building alliances
We must learn from the Community Restorative Justice model and move form a Crime Prevention model to a Harm Prevention model.
Crime is only addressed by the State when it is threatened by it.
We need to abolish the languages and constructions of crime itself.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by MIRTHE WACKI—————————————————————->

LD Mirthe Belfast

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by PAULA RAFFERTY—————————————————————->

Two points stood out for me during this meeting. The first being how much Belfast has changed (for the better) in the last twenty years. I was born  just across the border in Dundalk and grew up thinking it was normal to see armoured police vehicles and soldiers with machine guns walking the streets up north was normal ! That was until I went to college in Limerick and brought a friend up to visit my sister, who was attending Art College in Belfast. He was literally frozen and unable to move with fear seeing the army in action on the streets and was afraid if they heard his southern accent they would arrest him!! To see the city transformed was heart warming, with such a vibrant Art and Cultural community. Seeing the black cab tours being offered of the protest murals said it all.

It was wonderful and inspiring to meet the representatives from all the different countries and to hear their stories. I felt privileged to be a part of this group and hoped that my imput would be valuable.

Secondly Professor Phil Scraton from the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Law at Queen’s University stood out for me as a speaker. I had never heard these opinions voiced so passionately. It was reassuring to realise that my problems working in the prison system are universal and that it is in fact a toxic and very flawed and unhealthy system. We are trying to rehabilitate in a system that ultimately doesn’t want this to happen! Blew me away and excited to read his work.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by Ioannis Papadimitriou—————————————————————->

The first day of the meeting I was really glad to see some old friends from EPEA and from several projects. During the years I have met some really interesting people involved in Prison Education and especially arts. So, I was happier to meet new ones. YIP, PELE and ESC were the ones that struck me the most. I see enthusiasm and deep involvement but also concern about the future of arts in prison.
The meeting was great! Tom Magill’s presentation blew me away and Phil Scraton’s presentation was beyond my expectations. The Koester Trust presentation was wonderfull. I could not stop thinking what we in Greece could do if we had a similar foundation supporting art work from inside the Prisons.

After these presentations I exchanged a glance with my collogue Sophia, full of admiration of what was given to us.

This fist meeting was full of tedious arrangements and budgets, but left me with a big appetite of what to expect from the partnership.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

 

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