Socialist Worker

LETTERS: Conditions are dangerous inside 'grisly Risley' prison

Issue No. 2581

Theres four prison officers per wing in HM Risley

There's four prison officers per wing in HM Risley (Pic: HM Prison Inspectorate)

There have been reports that an explosive device was found inside HM Prison Risley last week.

Since then I’ve been trying to get in contact with the prison because my partner is in there, but I’m just receiving a wall of silence.

At the moment the prison is on a restricted regime. Prisoners are locked up for at least 18 hours a day.

They’re so short-staffed in Risley. There’s four prison officers per wing, which is nowhere near enough. All they can do is the bare minimum.

Once a fortnight my partner has no work on Friday, and there’s no work on the weekend. That means he’d have three days of being locked up for 22 hours a day. If there’s a bank holiday then it could be four days solid. Prison work should be all day, but it’s just half a day.

On the wing that my partner is on there’s no prisoner request forms.

That effectively means nobody can complain about anything—such as the fact that they’re locked up for three quarters of the day. The situation is leaving prisoners feeling desperate and hopeless.

The prison had a reputation for being “grisly Risley” in the 1980s and early 1990s. It seems to have gone back to that now.

In prisons across Britain violence is soaring, self-harm is soaring, suicides are soaring, attacks on officers are soaring. I’ve been anticipating protests in the prison. But now I’m scared that it’s going to escalate even more.

I don’t understand how an explosive device could have got inside the prison. But if you lock someone up with nothing constructive to do, they’re going to feel like they’re bursting.

That’s what the bomb may have been—just an expression of someone wanting to burst.

I’m scared that things are going to turn nasty there.

Adam Baxter


Let’s scrap Universal Credit

I have met several people who are now on Universal Credit (UC) and it is causing great hardship.

A woman who had moved here from another area, now on UC, was surviving on £28 a week.

Her rent was being paid but she is still paying off the “advance payment” that she was forced to take out to get through the waiting period.

Like many others on UC she cannot afford to have her heating on even though she has had two heart attacks.

She said she was prepared to work for a few hours a week to top up her income.

But once she has taken her bus fares into account she is likely to be working for a very low hourly rate.

This woman’s story is not an exception. More people are going to be trapped in a system that extends conditionality and sanctions into low paid work.

No doubt many people think it sounds like a good idea to simplify the system by bringing multiple benefits together. Some people think if the benefit goes wrong, it simply needs to be paused and fixed.

But UC is really about forcing people into taking whatever work is available.

It is essentially coercion and cuts disguised as efficiency and fairness. It should be scrapped.

June Jones


Minimum drink pricing is just mean spirited

The Supreme Court has waved through Scottish government plans to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol.

It’s a measure that seems to have the best intentions—and it’s angered the giants of the drinks industry.

But is it the answer to problem drinking?

Researchers say it will save lives, but it’s impossible to predict exactly how it will play out.

People struggling to pay the bills may have to forgo yet another hard-earned pleasure. Yet it’s difficult to see how a minimum price alone will help dependent drinkers.

Alcohol dependency services have been ruthlessly cut. Without that support the addicted will find a way to pay, perhaps turning to crime or to other substances.

Tinkering with price tags cannot address the root causes that drive people to drink. To do that, of course, costs money.

Phil Mellows


Labour’s promise to Israel is worrying

I was worried to read an interview with Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry on the right wing website Times of Israel last week.

The most worrying thing was that she said Britain’s relationship with Israel would “remain strong” if a Corbyn-led government was elected.

She even said that the current government’s policy towards Israel is “entirely in line” with Labour’s.

Thornberry—supposedly an ally of Jeremy Corbyn—said this includes recognising a Palestinian state.

Yet when it comes down to it, Britain always supports Israel in its wars and violence against the Palestinians. The left is under pressure not to speak up on this.

Thornberry has shown us what giving in to that pressure could mean.

Sharon Cooke


Be ready to say no to war

The world may be on the brink of war. There are flashpoints in the Middle East and Asia.

People must mobilise on a mass basis to say no war.

Nigel Norman

East London

We don’t want new reactors

Barrow MP John Woodcock wants the government to help pay for new nuclear reactors on green fields next to Sellafield.

But nuclear power isn’t the answer to anything—unless the question is “how can we maintain Trident”.

Marianne Birkby

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A new society to save planet

You ask what kind of society can solve the climate crisis (Socialist Worker, 15 November).

Only a society that has given up greed for common sense.


On Twitter

Now for the coups at ten

Instead of the usual presenter, an army general appeared on Zimbabwe’s state TV news. He said the military had taken over the programme as a stand against the “social and economic suffering” inflicted on the poor.

Is it now only a matter of time before Fiona Bruce is abruptly replaced by a camouflaged British general on the BBC’s six o’clock news?

Howard Henry Smith


Blame greed for Grenfell

I watched your interviews with Grenfell survivors (Socialist Worker online

This Tory government doesn’t care about them, only money for the rich.


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This tragedy shows capitalism is really evil. It only offers happiness for a top few and a hell for the majority.

The Philosophy of Tool

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