Free incarcerated women & others held in the women’s prison estate!

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Dear Robert Buckland,

I am writing to demand you take urgent action to immediately free all women and other people held inside women’s prisons in the UK, noting the cisgender norms enforced by the prison system that misgenders incarcerated non binary and trans people. Covid-19 is spreading rapidly within prison populations, endangering the lives of many. There have been hundreds of confirmed cases in prison and 15 incarcerated people have already been killed by the virus. The true number of cases and covid-related deaths in prison is likely much higher given the widespread lack of testing that has been undertaken by prison authorities. This cannot be considered anything other than state-sanctioned murder. The measures currently being taken to limit the spread of the virus within UK prison populations are both insufficient and inhumane.

There is no way to effectively enact social distancing within prisons and detention centres. Removing visitation rights whilst prison officers and staff still move freely to and from prison sites is proof the Ministry of Justice is using covid-19 as an excuse to exercise even further carceral control, while not taking actual steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Denying incarcerated people the ability to protect their health and save their lives is effectively condeming them to torture through isolation and solitary confinement. The impact of such extreme isolation on mental health is particularly acute on the women’s estate where, according to the NGO women in prison, 18% of recorded self harm incidents occurred in the year ending September 2019, despite only accounting for 5% of incarcerated people. You and your colleagues in the Ministry of Justice are responsible for further loss of life.

In this current pandemic, releasing people to their loved ones, communities of support, housing and non-coercive healing resources (such as physical health services, trauma informed counselling, substance use support) is the only humane solution. Ensuring appropriate funding to make this material support possible is urgent.

You must take action before more are killed.