On 25 August Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMCIP) released a new report on the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system. The report’s release was covered for The Guardian by home affairs editor Alan Travis in a piece that was unusually sensationalised for that publication and lacked the research required to represent the subject accurately and meaningfully.
I have had a few bad experiences with HMCIP over the years, which has led me to question the ‘independence’ they are so quick to inform everyone of. Back in 2011 a former HMP Frankland governor working at HMCIP gave evidence in support of false allegations against me for the Crown Prosecution Service, the gist of which was that nothing sinister could possibly have occurred by Frankland mysteriously losing all of the CCTV which displayed any wrongdoing on behalf of prison officers, attempting to paint the institution as squeaky clean. In January 2014 I happened to be located in the segregation unit of HMP Whitemoor during an inspection there. After beginning to provide some basic details to two researchers they quickly scuttled off to ‘check the paperwork’ and were never seen again. However, none of this history could have prepared me for what was to come when it came to the CSC.
On 19 January 2015, as HMCIP staff were walking on to the CSC to speak with the prisoners located there, I was being driven past them in a cellular transport vehicle to Full Sutton segregation unit, which was later claimed to be for a court appearance which was non-existent. I had thought that the CSC management had been attempting to keep me away from HMCIP to stop me exposing the failures of the system, so had several of my supporters contact HMCIP to inform them of this and request I be visited at the seg. Having now seen the report, it looks like HMCIP had conspired with the CSC management to avoid receiving the data I could provide. I make this accusation based on the fact that within the report it is stated that two people interviewed each prisoner, yet only one person saw me at Full Sutton; that each interview was digitally recorded, yet mine could not have been; and only one prisoner is listed as being interviewed at Full Sutton seg, yet two of us were located there and nothing I have said has been incorporated into the report. To add to all of this, none of the data which I had my solicitor and supporters send to HMCIP has received any mention; it has clearly all been ignored.
So, HMCIP appears to have a blind spot when it comes to me or any negative advice about the CSC but this is not the end of their blatant corruption. In a report on a system which this cover-up itself describes as raising ‘profound ethical issues’, HMCIP has taken the step of bolstering its blinkered views with outright lies, false allegations and manipulation of statistics. Assisting them in achieving this was the entirely and deliberately inadequate survey questionnaire which limited the scope and amount of data possible to obtain from prisoners, each one demanding answers be provided for the current CSC location prisoners were on only but then reflected in the report as sweeping generalisations over the whole CSC system. Refusing to publish any of the staff survey results on the basis of not being sure that it reached all CSC staff is a bit rich considering they maliciously ignored and misrepresented so much of what they did receive, acting as a mouthpiece for the CSC management rather than scrutinising their operation.
To begin with, the report describes the ‘leadership of the system as a whole [as] clear, principled and courageous’. This leadership takes the from of a committee known as the CSC Management Committee (CSCMC), made up of the CSC governor of each of the eight high security prisons, or the seg governor if no CSC unit is based in that prison. One example of this leadership is governor Kieran Ryan who is in charge of the most oppressive of all CSC units known as the Exceptional Risk Unit (ERU) based at Wakefield. This is the same Kieran Ryan who, prior to his promotion and allocation, to manage the prisoners most at risk of mistreatment in the country, whilst ranked as a principal officer, had been retrospectively altering the case notes of prisoners, been threatening towards prisoners and was involved in a plot to fit up a prisoner by having child pornography planted in his cell amongst other acts of gross misconduct, including several alleged assaults on prisoners. A Leeds Employment Tribunal awarded a whistle-blower in excess of half a million pounds for reporting Ryan, all paid for through public taxes, due to her serious mistreatment for having spoken out. ‘Clear, principled and courageous’, well if being corrupt is courageous and eliminating those who expose this is clear and principled then I suppose so. HMCIP also ‘commend many of the people who worked positively within the system’. I wonder what it means by ‘positively’.
The report claims that ‘Prisoners did not feel they suffered discrimination’ and states: ‘We spoke with most of the prisoners and none said that they had been subject to discrimination or had seen others subject to discrimination, and staff confirmed this.’ I am not sure if HMCIP understands the meaning of the word discrimination as I personally informed them that I was attacked by officers in riot gear whilst I was praying, as well as having had several Prison Ombudsman findings against the prison for discrimination in various forms. I am also aware of other prisoners reporting racism, islamophobia and disability discrimination, so this is quite simply a blatant lie. I tell you now that I am a CSC prisoner, I have been victim to and witnessed many instances of discrimination, and I take it as an act of discrimination by HMCIP to claim otherwise. Feeding Muslims pork is a regular ‘mistake’, contrary to the reports that ‘religious, cultural and medical diets were catered for’. The situation goes further than that when you look at the ‘disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic and Muslim men’ referred, assessed and selected to the CSC. HMCIP says the reasons why ethnic minorities and Muslims total a third and 51% needed to be better understood, but since even an idiot couldn’t fail to see why this is the case what they must mean is that the CSCMC needs to think of a believable excuse for its discriminatory practice. Even within the CSC the discrimination continues in the allocation of prisoners to each unit; Full Sutton, which is described as providing the best CSC regime, has only ever held one non-white prisoner, yet these facts all find themselves into HMCIP’s blind spot, which reports that: ‘Decisions relating to which unit prisoners were located more generally appropriate’. Apparently, ‘Systems were in place to report discriminatory incidents’. I think that this should say ‘systems to stop reporting’, as here at Wakefield all the discrimination forms have long since been removed and the box to put them in taken off the wall and hidden. As Kieran Ryan was known to have made ‘Heil Hitler’ salutes prior to his promotion, it is no wonder the opportunity to repeat discrimination has been removed and that he as part of the CSCMC would use the CSC as a weapon against minorities.
Throughout the report the ‘positive relationships’ between prisoners and officers are repeatedly praised, yet 46% of prisoners reported having been bullied by staff. Added to this is the claim that 49 incidents of ‘use of force’ in six months against prisoners is low; yet, as the report identifies, only 41 prisoners were located in the units these figures emanate from, it is outrageous to claim they are anything other than massive numbers, not ‘proportionate’ as the HMCIP believes. ‘The overall humanity and care provided to men whom it would have been easy to consign to the margin of the prison system was impressive’, they say, but the CSC is the margin of the prison system; humanity and care equate to torture in real terms and, if HMCIP thinks any prisoner should be consigned to inhumane treatment then they are not fit to operate within an inspector’s position.
‘Patients could have the same access to health care outside the CSC as non-CSC patients’, well tell that to Jason Jay who was left with skin cancer on his face for years due to the repeated refusal to take him to hospital, meaning half his face had to be cut off once he finally got treated. I had to judicially review the CSCMC and PCT for refusing to provide PTSD therapy, then got transferred again and again after they conceded the case, leaving me without the care I require. How do these examples, coupled with the inherent psychological torture of solitary confinement which is never-ending, amount to ‘CSCs generally tried to promote prisoners’ physical and psychological well-being’? Similarly, if ‘prisoners were receiving appropriate psychiatric treatment and support’ and ‘psychosocial support was impressive and prisoners had access to one-to-one psychology sessions’, why then is self-harm and self-mutilation proportionately so high? Is providing a prisoner a razor, then leaving him with it unsupervised after he had beaten himself up hours before due to the environmental stress of the CSC causing him to hear voices ‘good levels of care for individuals at risk’? Or maybe, after he had cut his ear off, giving him another razor a few weeks later to take the other one off satisfies the HMCIP’s distorted views on this description? Considering this prisoner was paid £45,000 compensation in damages for the total lack of care he received, the prison service itself doesn’t even claim to be as good as HMCIP is portraying it. As for being able to personalise cells, blood splatters from self-harm or officer brutality does give a touch of individuality, I suppose.
HMCIP ‘found little evidence of unofficial or collective punishments’ yet the CSC is in itself an unofficial punishment and the arbitrary restrictions imposed on a blanket basis collectively effect all CSC prisoners. The use of so-called ‘risk assessments’ allows for a diverse and sizeable selection of unofficial punishments all on an entirely arbitrary arrangement, and it is no coincidence that the most disliked prisoners are subjected to the most extreme restrictions yet according to HMCIP it’s all ‘measured and proportionate’.
So many more points could be raised with this disgrace of a report such as the lack of statistics to show how long prisoners have been on the CSC, how many have suffered mental breakdowns on the CSC, resulting in their removal to high security hospitals or many of the other outright lies written but I hope this is enough for people to understand. As Nick Hardwick, the Chief Inspector, is about to come to the end of his contract, his corruption in this instance obviously has little to do with him looking to keep his job, and presumably more to do with him advertising his willingness to sell himself out for future employers. His despicable misconduct should result in Hardwick being expelled from office and banned from any future public service role, not just allowing him to serve out the rest of his time without sanction. Promoting HMP Manchester positively earlier this year when all prisoners know, as has been recently reported in FRFI, that it is ‘the most racist prison in the country’, is one thing, but going so far away from the facts that lies have been required to substantiate the conclusions of this CSC inspection has been a lot more than a step too far.
Hardwick must be held to account and made to answer for his exceptional abuse of his position and a real investigation into England’s torture system needs to be conducted without further delay. Ending solitary confinement and shutting down the Close Supervision Centre system is the only way forward.