Prison Inc: An Interview With The Maker of Injustice – A Film About Prisons and Crime In 21st Century Neoliberal UK

As plans are unveiled for four more prisons in the UK – creating “up to 10,000 modern prison places by 2020” – and as the prison population, suicide in inmates, abuse, mental health problems, and rioting are all reaching record levels, surely it is time to reevaluate our methods of “serving justice”.

Appalled both by the way that our society is treating its convicted criminals, and by the silence and lack of solidarity on all sides of the political spectrum, one radical film-maker is seeking to spark debate and shed some much needed light on an issue we have all too happily turned our backs on.

Continue reading “Prison Inc: An Interview With The Maker of Injustice – A Film About Prisons and Crime In 21st Century Neoliberal UK”

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What The Fuck Is Happening In Prisons Right Now?

This is a guest post in response to the news and events surrounding the rioting in UK prisons.

The recent “incident” in HMP Birmingham is just the latest in a wave of rebellions taking place across the country this autumn, from Bedford to Lewes and elsewhere around the country, and it has little to do with the availability of televisions. And it’s not over – it looks like Hull is next.

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San Bernadino and Leytonstone: Culture, Reaction, and Labelling

Ourselves and our North American cousins share many similarities, but thankfully our views on guns are not one of them. Very rarely does this difference of opinion become so glaringly obvious, but this past week has been one such occasion.

On December 2nd, in San Bernadino, California, the married couple of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire on a crowd of roughly 80 people with semi-automatic pistols and rifles. In less than four minutes, 14 people had been shot dead and a further 21 were injured. Four hours later, 23 police officers were involved in a shootout with Farook and Malik as they attempted to flee in a rented SUV. Both Farook and Malik were killed in an exchange where police allegedly fired 380 rounds of ammunition.

The dreadful mass shooting at the Inland Regional Centre had been the second deadliest in Californian history and the worst in the US since the Sandy Hook Massacre in December 2012.

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Why Do They Hate Us

You are born.

Into a fairly poor, but loving Muslim family you are welcomed. You are the pride and joy of your parents. They adore you.

After a few years you are joined by a brother. Another patter of feet on the floor, and another mouth to feed. Your father takes on more work so that he can provide for his two wonderful sons. The work is tough, and the pay is poor, but that is to be expected as an immigrant in a European country.

On the rare occasions your father has time off work he tells you stories. You hear about what life was like for him back in Algeria when he was your age. You love hearing these stories, as does your mother who sits you on her lap to listen.

One day your father fails to come home from work. Your mother cries a lot, which makes you cry, which makes your brother cry. You never see your father again, and you never see your mother’s smile again either.

Your mother falls ill. She can’t get out of bed, and a doctor is called. Not long after your eighth birthday, your mother dies. You think it was a broken heart.

You and your brother are moved out of your small apartment and into an even smaller home. You are told that it is an orphanage. There are lots of other children there. You miss sitting on your mother’s lap and listening to your father’s stories.

As the years pass you grow up, and so does your brother. You two are inseparable and mature quickly. After experiencing what you have, it is unsurprising.

You don’t focus too much on education, but you do discover books by Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Frantz Fanon. These, along with the Koran, are your most read publications. Through Fanon you learn about your father’s homeland, and how France had occupied and brutalised it for years. It angers you, but you are glad that Algerians and French people can now get along.

Not long after your 18th birthday the world was rocked by the events of September 11th. Suddenly the word terrorism was on every news channel, and on every pair of lips.

From that day your world begins to change. The non-Muslim friends you have begin to drift away. No longer do you feel welcome in the company of some of them. Neighbours that had previously been friendly and polite become less so.

As you begin to feel ostracised from society you turn more and more to Allah. Whereas once you would pick up a beer or a smoke, now you lift the Koran. You are looking for answers, but also for security.

As you and your brother grow through your teens and into your twenties, the War on Terror intensifies, and you begin to feel like victims. Despite the protests which you participate in, Iraq is invaded illegally, and as the months pass you see hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims die.
You feel angry because of this. So do other Muslims in your community and around the world. You begin to talk with others who feel like you, mostly on the internet, but there are some very passionate men at your Mosque and they are eager to talk to you. You listen. Soon your brother joins.

One day your Mosque is vandalised. Graffiti has been sprayed on the wall saying that all Muslims are terrorists and they deserve to die. Bacon is pinned to the front door.

The group of men you associate with at the Mosque are furious. They speak of revenge. They speak of justice in the name of Allah.
You do not know what to think.

Vandalism, discrimination, and attacks against Muslims in France increase. Your brother is beaten up as he returns home late one night.

Still the innocent Muslims in Iraq die. News is soon broken that not only are Muslims being killed, but they are being tortured. Horrific images flood the papers, internet, and television. It is as the men in the Mosque had said, the West’s War on Terror is in fact a war on Islam.

You want to help the Muslims in Iraq, and you want to show that American, British or French soldiers cannot do that to people. They cannot repeat the atrocities of Algeria in another Muslim nation and expect to get away with it again. Along with a group of men at the Mosque you help to arrange for men to travel to Iraq. It is Jihad.

The government do not understand the struggle. They believe that you are a member of an underground, terrorist cell. Rather than protecting Muslims in the Middle East, they think you just want to kill Western soldiers. The group of men you associate with at the Mosque are called extremists. You are all arrested.

Whilst you spend time behind bars, your brother is following a similar path to the one you took. He sees the murder of innocent Iraqis, he sees the torture of them, and he sees the Western ally Israel commit atrocities of their own on the people of Palestine, without anyone doing anything about it.

By the time you leave prison, the world feels very different. People cross the street when you approach, racist attacks against Muslims in France have become common, and the far-right political party, the National Front, are growing in popularity.

As the months pass more Muslims become victims of atrocities. The killing continues in both Iraq and Palestine, and the torture continues unopposed in Guantanamo.

It seems the streets aren’t even safe for you any more. You don’t feel welcome in your own country. You seek refuge in prayer, and in conversation with the men at your Mosque. You feel like shouting at the world, screaming in both pain and anger. Why have things become this way?

There are those who do speak out, but they are silenced. The French government accuses them of hate speech. Your own ears hear the hatred of the world everyday.

You pass into your 30s and still the discrimination continues. Still you see your image ridiculed, your God mocked, and your people murdered. There is no outlet for you. Everyone is blaming you for all of their problems. For the last few years you have felt like you don’t belong.

The National Front grows in popularity. The Palestinians die in silence. The rage burns within you.

Your life descends deeper into a pit of hatred and solitude. You know this world doesn’t care for you. Your Muslim sisters have been banned from wearing their hijabs, your Muslim activists have been banned from showing support for Palestine, your Muslim icons have been banned from speaking out.

Everyday you and your brother are discriminated against.

New years do not bring joy, instead they bring a fresh wave of hatred. Across Europe people are marching to the tune of “we hate you, get out of our country.” Wherever you turn there is a reminder of what the world thinks of you. Terrorist. Terrorist. Terrorist. Papers carry the headlines, politicians issue the rallying call, and magazines publish the insults.

You and your brother feel like you have no future. How could you? You have no present. Your culture, traditions, brothers, sisters, and God are mocked and insulted. You are spat on by society, your voice is ignored, and you are invisible until the time whereby someone needs to vent their anger or hurl abuse.

The Koran states that paradise awaits you after this life. Your friends at the Mosque say that this could become a reality. You choose not to leave this Earth alone. You’re a terrorist already, what difference does it make?

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Guilt and Responsibility: Lessons from the Holocaust

If you shoot a person dead, you are rightly held accountable for their death. What happens though if you press a button to initiate a machine that shoots a person, are you just as responsible? How accountable are you if you are in the room at the same time that the process is occurring and you choose do nothing to stop it? Where does the responsibility for the death of a person begin and end?

In the late 1930’s and the early 1940’s Nazi Germany and its allies and satellite states embarked on a process of human extermination. The event we know as the Holocaust saw the most depraved and barbaric actions a human being is able to inflict upon another. Though exact figures are impossible to decide upon, approximately 11 million people were killed for being considered sub-human. Among them were the deaths of over six million Jews, as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis looked to eradicate the Jewish people from the face of the earth.

In camps set up around central and eastern Europe, victims were transported to their deaths. The names of these camps will forever be etched in the history of the human race. A constant reminder of the cruelty that we as a species are capable of. Treblinka, Belzec, Buchenwald, Chelmno, Sobibor and Auschwitz are places that are considered as manifestations of pure evil. It is important to remember though, that evil did not create such suffering and destruction; humans did.

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