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Today we are calling on members of the public to contact the Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland and ask him to urgently address extreme heat in prison cells as temperatures outside exceed 30 degrees celcius (scroll down for a template letter). People held in several prisons including HMP Coldingley, HMP Frankland, HMP Highdown and others, have reported feeling ill and being unable to sleep as they are locked up in cells with poor ventilation and no fans for up to 24 hours per day.


With the vast majority of prisoners now held in solitary confinement (locked in their cells for between 22 to 24 hours per day) due to coronavirus restrictions, families and friends say they’re extremely worried about the impact of excessive temperatures on the physical and mental health of their loved ones.


The partner of a prisoner (who has recently been released) said, “The cell he spends 23 hours a day in has a window that only opens about 2 inches at the most. He hasn't been able to sleep and says the heat and lack of air is unbearable.”


Member of bluebaglife and formerly imprisoned person Elliot Murawski said, “Prison cells in the summer are ridiculously hot. I remember one cell on the top floor specifically. They’d left the heating on until the end of May and the hot weather had started. My windows were the type that didn’t open, we just had small vents. It was unbearable. I had a clock sent in that showed the temperature - it was 37 degrees. The only thing I could do to cope with the heat was lay with a wet towel over my body. I barely slept for weeks.”


Family members are also worried that prisoners who become ill due to high temperatures may not get the healthcare they need. In 2018, the Care Quality Commission found that prisoners had died due to prison staff failing to respond properly to medical emergencies. A more recent report from the Nuffield Trust found that prisoners miss 40% of hospital appointments and that prisoners had been admitted to hospital with life-threatening conditions caused by lack of treatment for diabetes. In summer 2017, Rafal Sochacki died after being left in a hot court cell; the temperature in the cell was estimated to be 34 - 40 degrees celsius.


A spokesperson for the Prisoner Solidarity Network said, “The issue of unsafe temperatures in prison cells is raised every summer by people inside prisons and by their partners and families. It is inhumane to hold people in these conditions and should be addressed with urgency by the Ministry of Justice. If it is not possible to maintain safe temperatures within prisons then people need to be released to safe places. At the very least, as an interim measure all prisoners should be in a cell with adequate ventilation and have access to a fan, as well as plenty of drinking water. We know from many sources across the prison estate that this is not currently the case.”


For further information, contact psn@iww.org.uk

Template letter to contact Robert Buckland to demand action on these inhumane conditions


You can use this contact form to contact Robert Buckland.

Dear Secretary of State,


I am appalled to hear about the extreme temperatures prisoners across the country are experiencing over the summer. People in over twenty prisons have reported feeling ill and being unable to sleep due to being held in cells with poor ventilation, no fans and in some cases no running water. This is having a significant impact on the physical and mental health of imprisoned people.


People in prison have consistently raised the issue of extreme temperatures in cells with prison governors and the Ministry of Justice for several years. These conditions are inhumane and dangerous. As you’re aware, the majority of prisons are now holding people in solitary confinement (in cells for 22 - 24 hours per day) due to coronavirus restrictions. This, alongside the ongoing suspension of visits in most prisons, is already extremely distressing for people held in prisons and their loved ones. The combination of very high temperatures and solitary confinement is unbearable. No one should be subjected to these conditions.


I’m writing to ask that the Ministry of Justice addresses this issue urgently. If it is not possible to provide adequate ventilation, safe temperatures and plenty of water in prison, then people must be released from prison to a safe place in the community. At the very least, the Ministry of Justice should ensure that all prisoners are able to access a fan and plenty of drinking water, immediately.


Yours faithfully,

Taylor’s directions hearing took place on the 5th of May. The following is a summary of what happened and the injustice Taylor continues to suffer.


Despite being abolished in 2012, IPP (imprisonment for public protection) sentences were not retroactively banned, meaning thousands of people inside are still suffering the consequences, including Taylor. IPP prevents one from having a set release date, which means time inside is likely to increase immensely, due to bureaucratic delays and un-realistic rules and expectations. Due to IPP in Taylor’s case, he’s been locked up triple the amount of time he was initially sentenced for.


IPPs are meant to have hearings every two years but this was Taylor’s first hearing in over three years: even by their own unbearably cruel standards they are failing.


He was told he could sit another hearing in January 2021, where release will be on the cards. Another Christmas is going to go by without Taylor being able to experience it.


Release will be dependent on Taylor jumping through many unrealistic hoops, which don’t take into account pre-existing and continual trauma from being in prison. These were outlined at the directions hearing.


Everyone facing an IPP sentence will have inside and outside probation officers involved in what is called their “progression”. These officers are supposed to create a “care” plan to establish a network of mental health support that Taylor will need to follow after his release in the community. The development of the “care” plan is supposed to be a step in getting ready for his release. Taylor is supposed to have input into this plan. But how can we trust these people to meaningfully involve him and consider his complex needs with this plan when they’ve kept him in a cage for going on 12 years? When they talked about him as if wasn’t even there at his hearing? When prison after prison have looked on whilst he’s been abused and neglected? What mental health care provision is left after over a decade of austerity? We are worried this so-called care plan will be used coercively by probation to get him recalled, rapidly, should he be released in January 2021.


In addition, to be released, Taylor must: complete five more months of the Nexus program (for “emotional regulation”,) reduce his methadone and.... not self harm. Mental health, drug dependency and trauma should not be legitimate reasons to deny someone their freedom. Especially after they have already served their sentence.


How can the parole board sleep at night, knowing these coercive and cruel demands they have made?


This process has been traumatic for Taylor and he's still a bit devastated. He’s just taking things minute by minute, but he really is determined to get out.


We will be continuing to support and fight alongside Taylor, until he is free and in a safe home with his queer family who love him.




WHY ARE WE DOING THIS


Taylor is a trans masculine person currently incarcerated on an indefinite IPP sentence. IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentences were introduced in 2005. Under the legislation, people would be sentenced to an initial ‘tariff’ (minimum time that must be served) and, after that point, their release would be decided by the parole board. Although the sentence was abolished in 2012, those who were already inside remain on the IPP. 90% of IPP prisoners have served their original sentence and are still waiting to be released.


Taylor is still in prison, 12 years after he was sentenced to a minimum of 4 years. He has no release date. Even if IPP prisoners manage to convince the parole boards that they are no longer a “danger to the public”, the sentence carries a 99 year license, meaning that they face arbitrary conditions on their freedom and can be recalled to prison at any time for something that’s not even considered a “crime”.


Taylor is a survivor of abuse and violence. He has complex mental health needs that have not been met. His time in prison continues to exacerbate his trauma as he is subject to transphobia, medical neglect and physical assault. Taylor has a directions hearing with the Parole Board on Tuesday 5th May where the board will inform Taylor what he needs to do to qualify for release. But Taylor has already served three times the length of his tariff. He has completed so many courses, and jumped through so many hoops. The constant waiting continues to have an incredibly negative impact on his mental health. He has made many attempts on his life.


The 23.5 hour lockdowns imposed during the current global pandemic are exacerbating his state of distress. Due to his multiple complex medical conditions, he has a compromised immune system and is at risk of being badly affected by Covid-19. With prison guards circulating the prison without the appropriate PPE and the terrible hygiene standards inside, the chances of contracting Covid-19 are high.


Taylor has served triple his sentence. The Parole Board must give directions for immediate release, not for Taylor to jump through more unobtainable hoops or navigate the opaque bureaucracy.


Free Taylor now!



TAKE ACTION



1) Use our email tool: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/fao-parole-board-in-the-case-of-claire-taylor-a7974ax


2) Tweet at the Parole Board with a photo of you & a selfie that says FREE TAYLOR. Links to generate tweets:


https://bit.ly/2W9dCMu

https://bit.ly/2KL0eJ1

https://bit.ly/2YjSy8I

https://bit.ly/2xlGA3i


3) Send us photographs of you & your signs so we can pass them onto Taylor: freedom4Taylor@gmail.com or Instagram @prisonpandemic



DRAFT EMAIL


Subject: FAO Parole Board in the Case of Claire Taylor A7974AX


CC: Emails: Info@paroleboard.gov.uk



I am writing to implore you to give directions for the release of Claire Taylor A7974AX when the parole board convenes on Tuesday 5th May.


I am aware that Taylor (a transgender prisoner who uses “he and him” pronouns) was given a minimum sentence of four years and is now in his twelth year in custody. He has complex mental health needs that the prison service are unable and unwilling to meet. The 23.5 hour lock downs imposed during the current global pandemic are exacerbating his state of distress.

Due to his multiple complex medical conditions, he has a compromised immune system and is at risk of being badly affected by Covid-19. With prison guards circulating the prison without the appropriate PPE and the terrible hygiene standards inside, the chances of contracting Covid 19 are high.


Taylor has close friends on the outside who are committed to ensuring he has accomodation in Bristol and to support him in ensuring he receives the emotional support he needs.


The Parole Board must give directions for immediate release.


Best wishes,



DRAFT TWEETS


@parole_board Taylor has already served three times his minimum sentence, and has met so many previous requirements for release imposed earlier - instead of imposing further requirements for release, I urge you to release him immediately #FreeTaylor #FreeThemAll4PublicHealth


@parole_board IPP sentences have been abolished in the UK, why are people still incarcerated indefinitely? Why has Taylor been stuck in prison for 12 years, when his minimum sentence was only four years? He must be released now #FreeTaylor #Release2SaveLives


@parole_board Taylor has complex medical conditions compromising his immune system & is at a high risk of getting Covid-19 as he remains trapped inside a hotbed for the virus - he must be immediately released, not have further conditions imposed on him #FreeTaylor


@parole_board the newly imposed 23.5 hour a day lock-downs are having a debilitating impact on Taylor’s mental health - these conditions are Solitarty Confinement as defined by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. Release him now! #FreeTaylor #Release2SaveLives



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