Supporting female political prisoners
Yeah, why should I support prisoners ? Isn't it their fault, that they are where they are?And, aren't they possibly dangerous? And why should I waste my precious time to try to help them?
These are the typical questions which
arise when you consider getting involved in prisoner support and which you might
also set up to excuse yourself not to do so. First of all: Why you? In my opinion,
you have got through so many of my webpages, and hopefully reading them with
interest, that you are a good candidate for taking part at a prisoner support
campaign! And, whom else would you consider to do so - apart from you? And if
you think, that social workers, prison officers etc. would do a better job in
supporting prisoners than you would do- I doubt it. Because your approach to
them is different: as well as you choose to get in contact with them, they choose
if they want to be in contact with you ! You give them a precious choice in
a surrounding, where there otherwise might not be others. And also, you can
share opinions, ideas, discussions etc., lots of them on their beloved political
interest, which helps them to feel alive and also connects them to a world outside
their barriers, and also give them access to other points of views.
They also know, that they are not forgotten, that someone is caring about them, which helps them to put up with their present environment.
To answer another question, I have to quote from these pamphlets described at the bottom of the pages. Unfortunately they focus on female prisoners only in the US. There the female prison population has risen 275 % since 1980! In 1994 92% of federal inmates were incarcerated for non-violent crimes. Nancy Kursham states in her booklet, that," for instance, a comparison of female crime rates between 1977 and 1987 indicates that violent personal crimes actually declined while alcohol and drug-related crimes tripled.
on general effects of prisons
health matters: the neglect of proper health service in prison
There are many organisations and groups supporting prisoners. They usually have different approaches to support prisoners. Normally, a group doesn't support all political prisoners they know of, the number is just too big. So they either focus on a country, because of the same language they speak, or of the same background, like e.g. focussing on animal liberation prisoners etc., sometimes writing is easier, if there are already facts known about the person. We are all individuals, and prisoners don't all equal, just because they are all locked up. The reason why to have a special interest in female political prisoners isn't so specific. It is just, that it seems quite often that the focus lies on male prisoners, because their number is bigger and also the actions they are in for seem to be more spectacular, so the press publishes more about them. So isn't it then just fair to make people more aware of female political prisoners?
Additionally, according to the two pamphlets mentioned at the literature section at the end of the page, I want to give you some facts about female imprisonment in the U.S. So 90 % of women in prison are single mothers, 167 000 children have incarcerated mothers. 80 % of women report incomes of less than $2000 a year, 92 % less than $10 000. Assata Shakur wrote in "Women in prison: How we are": The women see stealing or hustling as necessary for the survival of themselves or their children because jobs are scarce and welfare is impossible to live on.
According to Shelley Bannister, over one third of all women have been or will be abused as children by males within and outside of their families. Annually over two million women are battered by male partners.
Furthermore, reproductive rights are non-existent for the ten per cent of the women in prison who are pregnant in terms of abortion, essentials for a healthy pregnancy, nutritional supplements, and birth rights, leading to forced seperation from the infants.
Many argue that, women's prisons implify a viciously, destructive paternalistic mentality. Powerlessness, helplessness and dependency are systematically heightened in prison, while, what would be most therapeutic for women is the opposite, for women to feel their own power and to take control of their lives.
Friendship among women is discouraged. There is a general prohibition against physical affection, but it is more seriously enforced against known lesbians.
All these quotations from the pamphlet
have one thing in common, They actually describe the general situation of all
female prisoners, not just political prisoners.
So why is there a particular approach to female prisoners, who consider themselves as being on the political left, being revolutionaries?
First of all, as already said above: sharing a commmon interest is an essential part of effective support. If you and your pen-friend share the same interest, thoughts seem to flow much easier onto paper, understanding each other is easier, accepting each other and keeping in touch. You can share news on the same topics and interests to which the prisoner might not have otherwise access, and the prisoner will be very happy to hear or read about. You still necessarily don't have to agree with every action or attitude- discussing questions and differences is often half of the fun of having a conversation- but the differences usually don`t question the basis of the whole support.
Secondly, the prisoner might suffer from
increased harassment if their political intrests is widely known.
Often it might come from fellow prisoners, or from prisoner staff, or from police, or from the law's representatives.
For example, it is not unknown for political prisoner to get physically tortured, beaten, or experience additional psychological destress and insults, like being kept in solitary confinement, being kept in prison long-term in remand, legal rights refused, obtaining wrong unlawful information,
or getting stuff refused which was sent to them and so on.
Also manipulated court cases are known, with dodgy witnesses, fake proofs.
The best known example is the court case of Mumia Abu Jamal, who is on death row in the US.
And even if they would not suffer at all from any harassment because of their political involvement, political prisoners might still feel isolated and forgotten
in their stubborn environment with no one at their side understanding and discussing their thoughts and considerations and share their feelings.
Furthermore, they might be in prison due to actions they committed out of political reasons.
For all female prisoners get in contact with:
Women in Prison
Support group for women in prison
unit 3 b, 22 Highbury Grove, London, N5 2EA, T 020 72265879,
Yeah, as said before, in near futuere I will do more changes at this webpage! The number of pages now is getting me really into a stressy situation to complete them... So, please don't worry and don't get angry, it is not forgotten but it takes a lot of time.
How to support?
This topic is frequently discussed among
all who are involved in prisoner support.
Already, there are some good webpages around with some basic principles.
It is important to remember that you and the prisoner are not the only people reading the lot sent to the prisoner, but also prisoner staff, and even political police might read it and present it back to you under more worrying circumstances. For this reason it might be a good idea to get a postal address for your prisoner support which isn't directly linked to your sacred home, and also to refrain from incriminating yourself or others. Also, it might be a good idea to keep in contact with other people interested and active in prisoner support, so you could catch some new ideas or exchange some basic information, e.g. if someone got moved or released. Also you could stick together to organise some fund-raising, or a leaflet or get involved into other activities.
Sometimes prisoners feel really appreciated if they are able to publish articles or information on webpages, magazines, leaflets etc. via your conversation.
Some of the best concerts are often benefits for political prisoners, or sometimes having a stall at demos to spread information is a pretty good chance to get more people involved, to get some more finances and to spread awareness. Some supporters have reported quite some big successes when having a stall on a Saturday in the city centre shopping zone.
For some good ideas, look: http://www.brightonabc.org.uk/action.htm
Pay WordPower, the special bookshop in Edinburgh a visit: http://www.word-power.co.uk
They provide an excellent service and advice on books about feminism and other radical topics.
Get the brandnew stuff and the classic literature from AK Press!
1. "The Prison Industrial Complex and the Global Economy" by Eve Goldberg and Linda Evans, a pamphlet which has 20 pages and focusses on women in prison. The pamphlet is quite affordable. Linda Evans is an anti-imperialist poltical prisoner serving a 40 year sentence for actions against the US government. She has been incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin, California for the last 12 years.
2."Women & Imprisonment in the United States: History and Current Reality", by Nancy Kurshan.Distributed by AKPress, printed by Monkeywrench Press. A pamphlet with 27 pages, it is quite affordable. Released with the help of the Philadelphia Joint Defense Commitee of the Industrial Workers of the World/ABC
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