I spent over 32 years in over 40 different prisons, and believe me there are no “holiday camp” style prisons.
Recent industrial action by prison staff is needed in order to draw attention to the violent cesspits that Britain’s prisons have become under successive Tory governments.
But the temporary withdrawal of labour by prison staff has profound and immediate effects on the prisoners left in their cells.
Some are unable to “slop out” the buckets they use as toilets—there are still 20 prisons in England with no access to 24-hour sanitation.
They can have no visits from their families, many of whom will have travelled far. Their medical appointments are cancelled.
Those on remand and yet to be convicted of any crime—estimated to be around 14,000 prisoners—won’t have had their day in court.
Prisons are under pressure because they come under the control of government. With every cabinet reshuffle we get another minister who wants to change everything to leave their mark.
They lie to the media and the public. They pay lip service to rehabilitation while stripping budgets and privatising everything they can—canteens, food, transport and prisons themselves.
Former justice minister Chris Grayling was a former TV executive whose only experience of prisons had been watching Porridge. He did his best to take prison conditions back to Victorian times then walked away scot free.
The damage he inflicted will be felt for years to come.
Take the responsibility of running the prison system away from the government and we may be able to make some progress.
Until then, it is only a matter of time before our prisons explode in an orgy of violence that will make the Strangeways riot of 1990 seem like a teddy bears’ picnic.
Mark my words.
Noel “Razor” Smith, ex-prisoner, author of The Criminal Alphabet
Don't tax the poor
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson plans to ballot voters on a 10 percent increase in council tax.
He threatens that without this cash injection social services will cease to function. It’s an excuse to avoid fighting the cuts.
Anderson and Labour have implemented savage cuts and managed a deterioration of services.
For workers this means lower pay, higher workloads and job losses.
Cuts have bitten deep into mental health, children’s and adult’s services, leisure centres, libraries, parks and roads.
Liverpool relies on central government funding because it is poor. Four out of five homes are in tax bands A and B, so only 11 percent of council funding comes from council tax. A third of children live in poverty.
If we want good services, Anderson suggests, we should pay more tax. He talks about “redistribution” and “support for the vulnerable”. But that would mean taxing the rich.
This is just an attempt to squeeze the poor further—and let the Tories off the hook. Instead of managing the cuts, let’s fight them.
Michael Lavalette, Liverpool
Council cash isn't enough
As your report says (Socialist Worker online), the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the bedroom tax was only a partial victory.
I work to support tenants applying for Discretionary Housing Payments to mitigate this unjust charge. Councils often turn down people who get disability benefits as their income is deemed “too high”.
They are not swayed by the fact that these benefits are awarded precisely because the person has greater costs due to their disability. They say that they are very sorry but it is a “fixed pot of money and only those in the most financial need can deserve this support”.
This Victorian thinking, must be resisted. I urge everyone who can to fight and organise against the Tories’ welfare attacks.
Housing caseworker, Name and address supplied
Migration is no problem
Jeremy Corbyn rightly criticises Donald Trump’s attack on Mexicans.
But he and shadow business secretary Clive Lewis are wrong to argue that stopping exploitative bosses can challenge the “problems” caused by immigration. It concedes that immigration is a problem.
We have campaigned over the disgraceful treatment of migrant workers by Sports Direct.
It built a warehouse in Shirebrook with “coalfield regeneration” money. But jobs on offer there were agency and low paid, and 85 percent of them were filled by migrants.
Right wing forces tried to exploit the situation, just as Trump looked to workers “left behind” by deindustrialisation. But our campaign has shown how organising against exploitation can bring all workers together.
As socialists we say migrants are welcome and oppose immigration controls. The old slogan “workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains” has never been more relevant.
Jeannie Robinson, Chesterfield
Trumped by the market
I live in a US state that elected Hillary Clinton. The morning after Donald Trump’s victory, it felt like a death in the family. But his win was inevitable.
Trump was created by marketing. As advertisers spin a “story” about their product instead of honestly describing them, he exploited discontent with the neoliberal economy without naming it.
He shifted blame for the failings of the free market system. This is a system where everything has a price. It’s a system where the powerful rule.
But because people believe they could rise to the top, they don’t question it. Our system exploits and encourages selfishness.
Now we have the epitome of selfishness in the White House.
Paulmw Hackett, on Facebook
Voting system needs change
For too long our political systems have been sticking a band aid over a huge nasty wound.
If we are to bring change for the benefit of all, how we elect what is in front of us and for how long must change.
We need a rethink of how our democratic political systems work, or should I say, fail to work.
Brian O’Neill, on Facebook
Racism was behind result
Your article on “Why did Trump win” (Socialist Worker online) was overly simplistic. There’s severe institutionalised racism in the US.
But I agree that Bernie Sanders may have won. A thorough analysis of this result and Brexit would help us combat the repercussions better.
Aine Foley, on Facebook
The Democrats could have expected to lose when they chose the 1 percenter Hillary Clinton over the people’s candidate Bernie Sanders. Now they are stuck with racist Donald Trump while Bernie could have won by a landslide.
Inge Doornbosch, on Facebook
US banks are putting money into fracking again—even though low energy prices mean they might never get it back.
It’s bad enough when they poison our air and water. When they’re chucking money down the well along with the fracking chemicals it adds insult to injury.
Some think this means we can simply hold off the frackers until the industry implodes.
But we need a mass campaign for a nationwide ban.
Kim Hunter, Scarborough
We can do without HS2
We desperately need more investment in our under-funded railways. But HS2 is a train in vain.
It’s a plaything for the rich—and a disaster for the environment.
Sam Dyson, Peterborough