Miscarriages of Justice UK (MOJUK) News Service
A senior prison service representative has officially confirmed that mentally ill prisoners are being held in a harsh control-unit designed to punish disruptive prisoners.
The Operational Manager of the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) at Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes, has written in response to an open letter that I circulated earlier this year that some prisoners held in the CSC “often present with highly complex needs which can include the presence of a mental disorder, the use of self-harm either as a coping mechanism or as a maladaptive coping strategy, as well as diagnoses of one or more personality disorders. Thus it is not unexpected that some individuals will present with high levels of self-harming behaviours due to their clinical needs. I cannot confirm the number or type of diagnoses of mental illness within the CSC prisoner population due to matters of confidentiality other than to say that the presence of a mental disorder is not uncommon within this population”. The operational manager concludes by saying that the Independent Monitoring Board is fully aware that prisoners suffering from mental illness are held within the CSC.
It’s important to remember what the official rational was for the original creation of the CSC and how it’s very punitive regime and method of controlling prisoners is still defined and motivated by this rational and ideology. The operational manager describes the type of prisoner “referred” to the CSC as “those involved or alleged to be involved in single serious acts of violence or where concerns regarding the risk they present to others have been supported by ongoing or escalating violent incidents”. This represents the official view that amongst the prisoner population there are some that are so dangerous, predatory and unmanageable that the only way to prevent them harming others and/or seriously disrupting ordinary prison regimes is to clinically isolate them in conditions of strict “supervision” or control. Such prisoners are considered the “worst of the worst” and therefore wholly deserving of “special measures” such as segregation within a unit or regime based on punishment-based behaviour-modification techniques. Demonising and de-humanising such prisoners is considered necessary in the interests of greater overall control of the prisoner population, and convenient as a way of reducing the structural ills of the prison system to the actions and behaviour of a small minority of dangerous troublemakers.
Supposedly the purpose of the CSC is to reduce the possibility of such prisoners creating trouble and possibly collective unrest in the mainstream prison population and as a measure of control is completely devoid of any rehabilitative or reformative content and designed just to incapacitate and punish. Within the CSC solitary confinement is used as a means of control and the fundamental experience of the prisoners held there is one of complete social isolation, sensory deprivation and total powerlessness.
The operational Manager in PR-speak claims that within the CSC a “specialist multi-disciplinary team is in place to provide appropriate care and management to help to manage and reduce individual risk to both staff and others. The care provided is based on individual needs”. Information provided by prisoners themselves within the CSC suggests a quite different daily reality of solitude and powerlessness, and an austere regime based on punishment and retribution enforced by a goon squad of prison officers. The entire modus operandi of the CSC is one of non-appeasement and non-negotiation within a behaviourist-orientated environment intended to subdue and defeat the will and spirit of the prisoners held there.
What characterizes the CSC regime most fundamentally is it’s use of solitary confinement. In an American study of Supermax jails it was said “Throughout the long history of it’s use in prisons, health practitioners and researchers have observed the adverse effects of solitary confinement on prisoners’ health. They are so severe that international experts have identified solitary confinement as psychological torture. The cumulative findings of various reports present unequivocal evidence of the damaging effects of solitary confinement, particularly for those with pre-existing mental health dis-orders, and indicate that it may also actively cause mental illness”.
In June this year a mentally ill prisoner held in the CSC cut off both his ears, horrific evidence that those with less resilient personalities are being pushed beyond the extremes of endurance by the CSC regime.
Categorizing mentally disturbed prisoners as control problems and then subjecting them to a regime deliberately calculated to inflict mental pain is a human rights crime and should not be tolerated by a supposedly civilised society in whose name it is being committed. All prisoners with a diagnosable mental illness currently held within the CSC should be transferred to a more appropriate mental health facility and it is the direct responsibility of the people in charge to see that it happens.