(Before It's News)
In a place whose essence is the passage of time, cell doors are the metronome. Unlocking and locking, creaking and slamming: steel doors provide the soundtrack and the structure to prison life. And when the cell door doesn’t open, when this routine is broken, a shudder of uncertainty runs through the prisoner community.
A prison lockdown is staff leaving prisoners locked behind their doors. You may shrug – after all, isn’t that the point of prison? A moment’s thought, though, suggests otherwise. Prisoners need to be unlocked to be fed. To move to work. To attend education. To see the doctor, governor, probation officer … cell doors are flung open with regularity. Without unlocking, everything stops.
You wake. You wait. Time passes by, and yet you hear no movement. Cells are not being unlocked. This is the only warning of a lockdown. And so you sit. And wait. As time passes, you may begin to worry. Will domestic visits be cancelled? Have families crossed the country to be turned away? Will mail be delivered? Will letters be sent? Lunchtime arrives. Doors must unlock: people must be fed. On a lockdown, this is done with a “controlled unlock”, a handful of prisoners at a time. Do you know how long it takes to feed hundreds of men, when only five at a time are unlocked?
A few hours locked down can provide some relief, an escape from other obligations. As the day progresses, and the prison remains silent, tensions can grow.
It may be seemingly little things, such as being short of tobacco. It may be large things, such as not being unlocked in the evening to telephone home to a partner sitting patiently by their landline.
To lockdown a prison is to increase exponentially the pressure on prisoners. And sometimes pressure must find some release. Lockdowns are dangerous, and to use them as a management tool in time of crisis only reveals desperation.
Courtesy of the Sunday Observer
Ben Gunn is “one of Britain’s best known prisoners…he constantly questions authority and exposes the futility of the system” The Times. Pleading guilty to the murder of a friend when he was 14 years old, Ben has since renounced violence and consistently fought for the recognition of the inherent dignity of all human beings. As a result of speaking truth to power, Ben has served far longer than the recommended 10 years, leading Education Secretary Michael Gove to argue that Ben “has been punished excessively for a crime committed as a child”, and Lord Ramsbotham to state that “It is expensive and unnecessary to keep Ben Gunn in prison”.