Socialist Worker

What justice from these institutions?

by Gary Mcfarlane
Issue No. 1904

FELTHAM YOUNG offenders' institution is notorious for its racism, violence and general degradation of the human spirit. The appalling case of Zahid Mubarek was bad enough. He was killed by a psychopathic racist Robert Stewart, who he was forced to share a cell with.

Nineteen year old Zahid should not have been in prison in the first place. His 'crime' was to have stolen razors, some valued at £6. For this he was incarcerated and set up for death by an institutionally racist prison system. But we now discover more details of how racism is built into the control system of the prison. The institution has launched an investigation into allegations in the press last week.

These claim that racial antagonism among prisoners was deliberately sought out and nurtured. Prison officers then forced these prisoners into the same cell and, like dogs in a pit, laid bets on when a fight would break out, and who would win. By playing on the hierarchy that exists among inmates the guards and their managers hoped to maintain control of their overcrowded and oppressive jail.

It's a bit like the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq-you imagine what sort of thing that might be going on but when the truth comes out, it is still shocking. You will be pleased to hear that the police are currently investigating the allegations. But don't hold your breath waiting for justice.

Two weeks ago the public inquiry into the death of Zahid was opened, and adjourned. Lawyers are dismayed that the inquiry is not to be given the power to compel witnesses to appear and give testimony. And of course two institutionally racist organisations-the police and prison service-are investigating each other!

Perhaps I'm being a little harsh about the endemic racism of the Britain's justice system? Consider the case Ibrahima Sey and his cousin Kebba Jobe. Ibrahima died in 1996 after being arrested and sprayed with CS gas by police officers. Incredibly his cousin Kebba 'Dobbo' Jobe died following his arrest by Camden police officers last month.

At an angry demonstration, reported in last week's Socialist Worker, but hardly anywhere else, marchers demanded justice for Kebba. They wanted to know what the Labour government was going to do, and asked where is the black leadership?

Well, Diane Abbott is probably taking her son to his nice private school and David Lammy is, of course, too busy climbing the lower rungs of the ministerial ladder. Indeed at a recent public meeting Lammy said he couldn't do anything for the family because he was 'in the government now'.

As Frederick Douglass, one of the great African-American abolitionists, said, 'Without struggle there is no progress.' I'll be speaking with Janet Alder, whose brother was unlawfully killed in police custody in Hull, at a Respect justice meeting this week.

By organising from below and connecting up the justice campaigns with the wider issues of institutional racism and social justice, we will make progress. We need to organise to gain Respect.


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Sat 5 Jun 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1904
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