Below is an introduction for those who might be facing prison sentences, written by members of the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group and Green and Black Cross.
- Legal advice (for demonstration arrestees)
- If pleading guilty or if you are found guilty…
- What could happen on the day if they do give you a custodial sentence
- Preparing for prison
- What to take with you to court
- Prison experiences
- Other support
- Writing to prisoners
- Prisoner support groups in the UK
- Three more web links to useful reading for the just in case scenario
If you are still facing serious charges I hope that the following document does not freak you out. That is certainly not the intention. The intention is to prepare you so that you are ready for the worst case scenario.
You can also always get in touch as we might be able to put you in touch with others who can be supportive.
Legal advice (for demonstration arrestees)
Your solicitor might be able to run a defence of ‘self defence’ and similar – because of the way that police violently attacked protesters in Trafalgar square on March 26 for example. If you were in such a situation then I am sure you have discussed this at length with your solicitor!
Witnesses – We also want to let you know that if you are pleading not guilty, you need to make sure that you have good and reliable witnesses to help you with your defence. If you still need help finding these you need to get in touch with us and describe exactly when and where you are alleged to have committed the crime to that we can compare them to Legal Observer notes.
Character references – get as many as you can from as many people in your life as you can – if found guilty / pleading guilty – they can often make a very big difference to your sentencing.
If pleading guilty or if you are found guilty…
Sentencing – You may have heard about Francis Fernie who was recently sentenced to 12 months in prison after being arrested at the demonstration on March 26th. It is a completely outrageous sentence and one designed to scare people on many levels. The judges sentencing remarks indicated that anyone guilty of violent disorder from recent protests will face a custodial sentence.
If you would like to support Frances by writing to him, then please check freefrankfernie.info or ABC prisoner lists.
Possible prison sentence – Legal Defence and Monitoring Group have put together a few initial thoughts and web links as we want to make sure that you are physically and mentally prepared for the very real possibility of a custodial sentence. At least if you have everything in place just in case this happens it will make life an awful lot easier for you. Please take a read of this and think about how you can prepare. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org or with LDMG/GBC if at any point if you want to discuss any of this further. Supporting defendants is a joint project between Legal Defence and Monitoring Group and Green and Black Cross.
If you are under 21 – Apparently there’s only 1 Youth Offending Institute in London for men and that is Feltham. Some YOI are for juveniles only (under 18). If you turn 21 while you are in prison you may be transferred to adult prison at that point although sometimes people can be kept at YOI up till 22 to avoid the bother of transferring them it they only a short time to serve.
People you might want to chat to about prison – We have people in LDMG who would be up for meeting you. If you don’t want to meet someone but would like to chat to them on phone or email let us know.
What could happen on the day if they do give you a custodial sentence
Normally once the sentence is read out the person is taken straight from the court to the cells below the court, then to a prison. However, if the judge decides he/she wants to hear certain reports before deciding the sentence (probation service, doctors, etc) he can adjourn the case for a number of days (or weeks) until these reports are ready then everybody goes back to court and it is decided what he/she will get. So you should be prepared for either possibility.
If you aren’t going to take a family member to court and you do get sentenced to a custodial there and then we will need to get your prison number ASAP in order to offer further support. We need the name of your solicitor, but we also need to know what firm they are with and their phone number would be really handy as well. They will be the best person to get the prison number out to your family and fiends asap. You will need to tell them who you want them to pass it on to. If you want to leave contact details for your friends and family we can call them if you do get a custodial there and then so have a list of people and contact details ready.
Support and publicity? What level? Nobody can write to you without a prison number so that’s one of the first things you need to do on arrival. That way you can be supported asap.
Decide whether you want your prison number to be made public or do you want to have an address / support person to be the go between? It might be worth thinking about the latter so that people can filter out anything from nuts etc. Do you want Anarchist Black Cross to co-ordinate support or do you want another group, or a friend to do that or a mixture? You might want friends to have the prison number and another address to be made public.
You might also want an email address that people can write to that is administered by your campaign support person/group.
Do you want to write a bit about yourself before going inside. How much or how little information do you want people to know? I.e. What you were charged with, what demo e.g. an anti cuts demonstration etc.
Is there a list of people you would want to be contacted if and when – again give that to an LDMG/GBC court support person on the day or someone at home who you would like to run a campaign.
Edward Woollard – https://support4edwoollard.wordpress.com/ check his website to get an idea as to ways a support campaign can be run – maybe you want to write to others inside due to anti cuts demos?
Reading list – what are your likes and interests? What you might want people to send you?
Plans for when you are out: Worth thinking about this beforehand as well as when you are in there.
What to bring with you on the day just in case: toothbrush, book, addresses and phone numbers, comfortable clothes / underwear, comfortable shoes – not sure if you will be able to wear own clothes if YOI but just in case. Have a bag ready at home with someone who can get other things to you on their first visit. Most prisons allow a reception visit in the first week of someone being inside, which means you can show up without a visiting order. Every visitor apart from that first one needs to have a visiting order from you in order to visit you.
More details about this from Activist Legal Project – ‘Coping with Prison’ is their excellent downloadable PDF.
What to take with you to court
If you’re expecting a prison sentence, you’d be well advised to go to court with everything you think you might need whilst you’re there. As you’ll soon discover, getting stuff into prison once you’re there is a nightmare of bureaucratic form filling and delay – better to take what you need with you. Note that every prison is different in what it allows – it’s not uncommon for prisoners to have items in their possession at one prison, then be transferred and have them confiscated. Many prisons operate ‘volumetric control’, whereby prisoners are allowed to have only what fits in two boxes of 0.7m x 0.25m x 0.55m – anything above that has to be kept in prison storage. If you know which prison you might go to (easier for women as there are far fewer women’s prisons) you could ring up in advance and ask what’s allowed. You might think of taking the following, but be aware that some prisons will not allow some of the things in the list:
- Clothes. Women and un convicted men can wear their own clothes. Convicted men must wear prison uniform. Laundry facilities may be poor, so take several sets.
- Reading matter. At least three books are allowed, often more. Some prisons allow books to be sent in by people on the outside, others insist that they come direct from the publisher. Newspapers and magazines cannot usually be sent in, but must be ordered from a designated newsagent.
- Stationery and stamps. Available from the prison canteen (shop) but often little choice and overpriced.
- Address list of family and friends.
- Flask. You’ll probably be locked up for at least twelve hours overnight, and often all day as well, so being able to make tea can be a big comfort. It should be the type which can be unscrewed at the bottom.
- Radio/walkman, batteries (non alkaline), tapes (clear plastic only).
- Pens – clear plastic type.
- Toothbrush – prison ones are very hard on the gums.
- Spare glasses if you wear them.
- http://www.brightonabc.org.uk/prisonexp.html: some short pieces written by prisoners and their friends and relatives, to convey something of the real nature of prison life…
There is so much more that can be done, up to you and your imagination and your contact with a prisoner, such as: publicity for the case, visits, financial support, pickets of prisons. Think about the ways in which you might like to be supported. How public you want your campaign to be. Whether you want to limit it to friends writing to you or if you would like an appeal for support to go wider. Make your views clear when writing to people directly or to the people outside who might be co-ordinating your support.
Writing to prisoners
Emailing people in prison
Some prisons allow prisoners to receive emails – check out this link and send it to your friends before hand so that they can try to use it
An Excellent ABC leaflet to download about writing to prisoners and supporting them in other ways. Get this link out to your friends before you go to court. No direct link – you have to go to this page to link to the pdf file:
ABC leaflet also lists the following useful websites:
- www.brightonabc.org.uk Brighton Anarchist Black Cross, anarchist/eco prisoner news lists, support info etc.
- www.spiritoffreedom.org.uk earth liberation prisoners support group.
- www.vpsg.org vegan prisoners support group.
- www.havendistribution.org.uk books to prisoners scheme.
- www.hmprisonservice.gov.uk information about visiting times at prisons, help available for families, etc.
Haven Distribution aims to provide practical support to prisoners within the UK.
More info from: http://www.havendistribution.org.uk/
Purchasing educational literature for inmates who are currently attending courses whilst in prison; providing dictionaries in English and other languages to inmates whose first language is not English; providing large print dictionaries and books on improving reading and writing skills to inmates with dyslexia.
If you are a prisoner attending an educational course such as NVQ, Open University, A Level, etc., and would like help in purchasing specific course literature, we may be able to help to a maximum of £20 per person, per calendar year.
Due to limited resources, Haven Distribution is unable to help with the purchase of books for general reading. Please speak to the prison librarian for more information about ordering non-educational books. Even better – get that list of books you want to read to whoever doing your campaign support and ask them to get word out to supporters.
Prisoner support groups in the UK
- ABC Brighton – PO Box 74, Brighton, BN1 4ZQ, UK [email]
- ABC Bristol – c/o Kebele, 14 Robertson Rd, Easton, Bristol, BS5 6JY, UK [www][email]
- ABC London – c/o Freedom Bookshop, Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX [www][email]
- ABC Leeds – 145-149 Cardigan Road, Leeds, LS6 1LJ, UK [www][email]
- 325 Magazine – online Anti-capitalist, anti-repression magazine with articles, interviews, wrtings by political prisoners, and a distro. For a world without borders or prisons! [www]
- Campaign Against Prison Slavery – PO Box 74, Brighton, BN1 4ZQ, UK [www][email]
- Earth Liberation Prisoners – BM Box 2407, London WC1N 3XX, UK [www][email]
- Green and Black Cross: Provide legal support for demonstrations, so far based in London [www]
- Haven Free Books to Prisoners scheme – BM Haven, London WC1N 3XX. UK [www]
- Legal Defence & Monitoring Group (LDMG) – Volunteers for the Defence of Civil Protest & the Right of Public Assembly. The new edition of “No Comment – The Defendants Guide to Arrest” is now available as a PDF on the website. [www][email]
- Miscarriages of Justice UK (MOJUK) [www][email]
- No More Prison – Promoting radical alternatives to prison that focus on social and community welfare rather than punishment. c/o Paul Mason, School of Journalism, Media and Culture Studies, Bute Building, Cardiff University, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3NB, UK [www]
- Prisoners Advice Service – 0800 0182 156
- Vegan Prisoners Support Group – PO Box 194, Enfield, Middx EN1 3HD, UK
- Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group (ALFSG) – BCM 1160, London, WC1N 3X
Three more web links to useful reading for the just in case scenario