In Brazil’s burning rainforest, Indigenous women lead the battle against ecocide, genocide

The Indigenous Women’s March

It only took three weeks or so for the world to take note that Brazil’s Amazonian rainforest is on fire, a fire whose smoke turned Sao Paola’s midday to midnight, a fire that from deep space portends an immediate threat to all living beings on the planet Earth. According to those watching the Amazon, the rainforest has suffered close to 73,000 fires this year alone. In the past week, around 10,000 fires have erupted. This represents a 70% increase in fires since January 2018. This sudden peak in rainforest fires is directly attributable to the policies of the Bolsonaro government. The Amazon is on fire, the Earth is on fire. Amazonian Indigenous peoples warned us that Bolsonaro, and the system of which he is a part, would do this to the forests and to the Earth. Few listened. In this struggle, Indigenous women lead the effort to liberate the Americas and the world. From the outset, they argued the struggle for Indigenous and environmental autonomy was and is a liberation struggle. Maybe now, maybe, more of us will listen. 

On August 13, 2019, Indigenous women converged on Brasilia for the first Indigenous Women’s March. Under the banner “Territory: our body, our spirits”, thousands of Indigenous women from hundreds of different Indigenous populations gathered and filled the streets for days. Sônia Guajajara, leader of the Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation), APIB, explained, “We came to denounce the president’s hateful discourse, which has increased violence and destruction in our territories, which directly impacts us, women. We are counting on international solidarity to advance this movement for our future.” Her colleague, Célia Xacriabá added, ““For the first time in history, the indigenous women’s march convenes more than 100 different peoples in Brasilia with more than 2,000 women present. This is a movement that is not only symbolically important but also historically and politically significant. When they try to take away our rights, it’s not enough to only defend our territories. We also need to occupy spaces beyond our villages, such as institutional spaces and political representativity. We call on the international community to support us, to amplify our voices and our struggle against today’s legislative genocide, where our own government is authorizing the slaughter and ethnocide of indigenous peoples. This is also an opportunity to join our voices to denounce this government’s ecocide, where the killing of mother nature is our collective concern.”

At one level, as in the past, the real tragedy in Brazil is that there is no tragedy. There is only redundancy, murmurs of complicity, and, then, as in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the inconceivable: “It was inconceivable that they would suddenly abandon their pastoral spirit to avenge a death for which we all could have been to blame.” However, today, as in the past, Indigenous women are organizing, refusing to accept that script that renders them abject and renders the world as empty and farcical. They are demanding that we, all of us, recognize we have the possibility of liberation. As Tamikua Faustino explained, “Deforestation is a killer. If we don’t stick together, in the near future we’ll be eliminated.” It’s time to reject those who would impose a death sentence on all living beings, to refuse the vampire thirst for the blood of all living creatures. It’s time to see the sun at midday, the moon at midnight. Eight years ago, in a different environment crisis in Brazil, Indigenous woman organizer Juma Xipaia declared, “We will not be silent. We will shout out loud and we will do it now.” Another world is possible. Shout out loud, do it now.

(Photo Credit: CIMI / Tiago Miotto)

Where is the global outrage at the destruction of Kashmir and the assault on Kashmiri women?

August 14, 2019: Women in Kashmir protest

“There is a long row of women, who have given birth in the midst of destruction, their babies, a new generation, are tied securely to their bodies with a duppatta. I see them as they walk, slowly, cautiously, confidently, across the broken embankment, past seething waters, to the safety of their community and their people. Once more, they shine.”

Freny Manecksha. Behold, I Shine: Narratives of Kashmir’s Women and Children

In early August, the Indian state suspended Article 370 of India’s Constitution. Article 370 gave special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This special status included a separate constitution and administrative autonomy. In suspending the Article, and effectively India’s Constitution, Narendra Modi offered economic development and his version of a War on (Islamic) Terror as justification. The lynchpin of this claim was the protection of Kashmiri Muslim women. In this scenario, Modi is the great liberator savior of Indian Muslim women. Kashmiri women know better: “Who will liberate us? The BJP leaders who are saying men in UP or Haryana (where the sex ratio is low) can now source fair brides from Kashmir? Are we apples or peaches of Kashmir — goods to be looted by our conquerors?” The women of Kashmir are accustomed to these claims of liberation, empowerment, freedom, and have consistently rejected them as false and empty. For decades, and centuries, women of Kashmir have organized to dispel the night and fog of various modes of patriarchal sexual violence against women and girls. 

Since the declaration, India’s Prime Minister has continued to claim that the erasure of semi-autonomous Kashmir  is part of the program of women’s liberation, which begins with `protecting’ Indian Muslim women … from themselves. Since the declaration, Indian social media has recorded public officials and just plain menfolk boastingthat now they can go to Kashmir and pick up “fair Kashmiri women” as wives. 

Kashmiri women know better. They know that “protection” means intensified occupationunparalleled communications and information blackoutsramped up harassment of women and girls. They know that protection means the most vulnerable, such as women in childbirth, will be the most exposed to violence and danger. They know that armies that march under the banner, “Save Muslim Women!”, are never to be trusted. They know this, and their knowledge of such has been well documented again and again and again.

Despite the documentation of Kashmiri women’s decades and centuries long histories of self-organizing, the world more or less stands by and watches the new phase of protective torture of women and girls with a muffled cough of disapproval. Where is the global outrage at the intensified assault on Kashmir, and particularly on Kashmiri women? Where are the mass demonstrations in support, the teach-ins, the calls to action, other than polite invocations of solidarity? Where are the comrades, the militants, the feminists? Where is Kashmir? Nowhere. Who are the women of Kashmir? As far as the world at large is concerned, no one. Less than no one. Poor blighted beings in need of salvation. “But, hell, let’s just ‘Save Muslim Women’!”

(Photo Credit: Al Jazeera / Reuters / Danish Ismail)

For the world that abandons children, the future is the house of the dead

“Tyranny is a habit, it has its own organic life, it develops finally into a disease.”   Fyodor Dostoevsky

“I stay stuck on this point. There is a new outrage every day, but I try to remember children. If I were one of them, away in a strange place, all alone, surrounded by strangers, and my mother or father or both were taken away, how could I possibly cope? If I were the father of a child taken away from me to who knows where, and I had no idea if I would see my child again, how could I continue to function?” Charles Blow

Welcome to the horror show of contemporary “life”. Around the world, reports indicate that nation-States, so-called democratic nation-States, have formally, finally, and once again decided it’s time to abandon children, to criminalize their childhood, and to turn the future into so much rotted carnage. In Loiret, the government plans to “release” 150 unacccompanied migrant teenagers from State servicesThe plan is no plan. Put them out and let them fend for themselves. Australia anticipates “removing” triple the number of Aboriginal children within 20 years.Over thirty children are being forced to suffer “searing temperatures” on board a ship in the Mediterranean because Italy and Malta refuse to let them disembark. Yesterday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 680 people, workers in various plants in Mississippi. Hundreds of children of all ages were left behind, without a moment’s notice or concern. Children are not the concern of the State. Families are scared to death. Story after story appears of children of immigrant workers in Mississippi left at school with no one knowing what to do; children on board a boat in the Mediterranean with no one knowing what to do; Aboriginal children in Australia being removed from families with absolutely no consultation with the community and, again, no one knowing what to do; already precarious, isolated children in France being thrown into the streets and no one knowing what to do. This is our knowledge, the knowledge of no one knowing what to do. This is the future. Cover the mirrors with black sheets. Turn off the lights. Close the door. But first, remember to devastate the children. 

(Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press / New York Times)

Once more, all that is human drowned in the sea

“I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this”

Today was to be about the women in Puerto Rico who changed history, who sparked and sustained a movement against patriarchy, colonialism, injustice, imperialism, racism, misogyny. Today was to be about the women in Puerto Rico who continue to move a nation forward. But 150 women, children, men died – were murdered – off the coast of Libya, and the story that is told cannot stand. The story that is told is so much noise “tragedy”, tragedy, tragedy. Fear: feared drownedfeared deadfeared deadfeared drowned. These reports empty tragedy and fear of all meaning. As activist Helena Maleno has noted, Europe and the United States have militarized the borders into death zones, zones of necropolitics, necrocapitalism, necroborderlands, in which people are killed or abandoned to die. Criminalize all attempts at rescue or support, militarize the spaces between nations, criminalize those who seek rescue or support, fill the waters with sharks, and then, when the refugees and asylum seekers drown, call it a tragedy of monumental proportions. 

And now the surface of the Mediterranean is as it was the week before, as it will be in the weeks ahead, unbrokenand all that is human has drowned in the sea, as we walk in circles, intoning, “Tragedy. Fear. Fear. Tragedy.” The tragedy is in the mirror as is the farce. I had said I wasn’t going to write no more pieces like this … “but the dogs are in the street. The dogs are alive and the terror in our hearts has scarcely diminished.” I had said I wasn’t going to write no more pieces like this. I made a mistake.

Jose Campos Torres
by Gil Scott-Heron

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I had confessed to myself all along, tracer of life, poetry trends

That awareness, consciousness, poems that screamed of pain and the origins of pain and death had blanketed my tablets

And therefore, my friends, brothers, sisters, in-laws, outlaws, and besides — they already knew

But brother Torres, common ancient bloodline brother Torres is dead

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more words down about people kicking us when we’re down

About racist dogs that attack us and drive us down, drag us down and beat us down

But the dogs are in the street

The dogs are alive and the terror in our hearts has scarcely diminished

It has scarcely brought us the comfort we suspected

The recognition of our terror and the screaming release of that recognition

Has not removed the certainty of that knowledge — how could it

The dogs rabid foaming with the energy of their brutish ignorance

Stride the city streets like robot gunslingers

And spread death as night lamps flash crude reflections from gun butts and police shields

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

But the battlefield has oozed away from the stilted debates of semantics

Beyond the questionable flexibility of primal screaming

The reality of our city, jungle streets and their Gestapos

Has become an attack on home, life, family and philosophy, total

It is beyond the question of the advantages of didactic niggerisms

The motherfucking dogs are in the street

In Houston maybe someone said Mexicans were the new niggers

In LA maybe someone said Chicanos were the new niggers

In Frisco maybe someone said Orientals were the new niggers

Maybe in Philadelphia and North Carolina they decided they didn’t need no new niggers

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

But dogs are in the street

It’s a turn around world where things are all too quickly turned around

It was turned around so that right looked wrong

It was turned around so that up looked down

It was turned around so that those who marched in the streets with bibles and signs of peace became enemies of the state and risk to national security

So that those who questioned the operations of those in authority on the principles of justice, liberty, and equality became the vanguard of a communist attack

It became so you couldn’t call a spade a motherfucking spade

Brother Torres is dead, the Wilmington Ten are still incarcerated

Ed Davis, Ronald Regan, James Hunt, and Frank Rizzo are still alive

And the dogs are in the motherfucking street

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I made a mistake

(Photo Credit: Miriadna.com) (Video Credit: YouTube)

How many times must we `discover’ Brook House is a hellhole before shutting it down?

Yesterday, July 22, 2019, the U.K. National Audit Office issued The Home Office’s management of its contract with G4S to run Brook House immigration removal centre, a report requested in response to a tv documentary, on BBC Panorama, aired September 1, 2017 that, using undercover footage, showed the abuse and worse heaped by staff on immigrant detainees at Brook House, a “notorious” Immigration Removal Center near Gatwick Airport. The Home Affairs Select Committee requested the report in March 2019. It took a year and a half for the abuse to make any difference whatsoever.

Brook House is “run” by G4S. The auditors “found” that “G4S made £14.3 million [$17.8 million] gross profit on running Brook House between 2012 and 2018.” This single fact has grabbed the headlines: Brook House: “‘G4S made £14m profit from immigration centre’”; “G4S made £14m profit from scandal-hit Brook House removal centre”; “G4S makes £14.3m from scandal-hit immigration centre amid lack of Home Office scrutiny, report finds”. That G4S made huge profits off the misery of people seeking asylum and refuge is not surprising. In 2017, The Guardian reported that G4S earned a 20.7% profit margin at Brook House. There was supposed to be a limit to the profit margin of 6.8%, but what’s a few percentage points among friends. When did stakeholders become shareholders? 

While many will focus on the private prison aspect of the story, the real story, and news, is in the contract, designed and approved by the State. According to the design of that contract: “The abuses documented in BBC’s September 2017 Panorama were not a contractual breach and did not lead to substantial penalties under the contract. Under the contract, the Home Office can only award deductions for specific incidents of underperformance. Inappropriate use of force or verbal abuse of detainees are not counted as a performance failure under the contract. The Home Office and G4S’s investigation of the footage counted 84 incidents. Most of these were either already reported or were not required to be reported under the contract … The Home Office concluded that the behaviour depicted in Panorama did not constitute evidence of systemic failures or a material breach of the contract and that it was not necessary to try to terminate G4S’s contract.”

Use of force or verbal abuse of detainees are not counted as a performance failure under the contract. The Panorama documentary alone had 84 instances of use of force or verbal use. According to the auditors, many others occurred regularly throughout the period under review. Use of force and verbal abuse was systemic but not a sign of systemic failure … because under the terms of the contract abuse of immigrants by State, be they public or private agents, is not failure. It’s success.

When stakeholders become shareholders, asylum seekers and refugees become prisoners, hostage to a global economy in which their abuse is a sign of success and a victory for something called “justice”. Brook House has been repeatedly designated a hellhole, and yet, there it is, still standing, still regularly being “discovered” by the media, the State, and everyone else who refuses to listen to the reports of migrants. How many times must we `discover’ Brook House is a hellhole before shutting it down?  How many times must we `discover’ the architecture of our intensifying inhumanity before we tear down the walls and build a new house?

(Photo Credit 1: BBC) (Photo Credit 2: Left Food Forward)

Saturday’s factory fire in New Delhi was a planned massacre of women workers

The fire that killed three workers

A factory fire broke out Saturday, July 13, in a hardware factory in the Jhilmil industrial area, in New Delhi. Three workers were killed: Manju Devi, 50 years old, mother of five; Sangeeta Devi, 46 years old, mother of three; Shoaib Ali, 19 years old, one of two children. The Jhilmil industrial area is 20 some miles from the Bawana Industrial Area, where a fire broke out January 2018 in a firecracker factory. An hour by car, more or less, separates the two factory zones. A year and a half separate the two fires. In that year and a half, absolutely nothing has been done to ameliorate the conditions of factory workers in New Delhi. As was the case in Bawana, Saturday’s factory fine in New Delhi was a planned massacre of workers, the majority of whom were women.

For a couple days there was news coverage. The two brothers who owned the factory have been arrested. The factory license had expired and so the factory had no license. The factory had no “firefighting measures.” The fire was massive, the brothers were negligent. The stories of each of the three murdered workers are plaintive and heart rending. In other words, this “tragedy” is precisely like the earlier “tragedies”. Add the Jhilmil industrial area to the list of factory fire “tragedies”: Bawana Industrial Area,India: Tangerang, Indonesia;  Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, United States; Kader Toy Factory, Thailand; Zhili Handicraft Factory, China; Tazreen Fashions Factory, Bangladesh; Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, Philippines; House Technologies Industries, Philippines. The sacrificial pyre built of women’s bodies continues to grow and light up the night sky of global economic development. 

The Jhilmil factory had no license because it didn’t have to have a license: “The factory was operating in the area of 110 sq metres and a fire NoC [No objection Certificate] is not required for the area below 250 sq metre as per norms.” According to some estimates, “around 90% of units in industrial areas of Delhi lack fire safety norms.” Some of those factories are in violation of the law, but the vast majority aren’t. They are “per norms”. That is, respectively, they comprise individual areas of less than 250 square meters, and so don’t need any license. The majority of factories in New Delhi’s industrial zones are less than 250 square meters in area. Per norms. That’s the law. That’s how it is. Saturday’s factory fire in New Delhi was a planned massacre of workers, the majority of whom were women, and the planners of that massacre are factory owners, the State, and all who looked the other way, or better, see and construct a world “per norms” in which people who work in larger factories have some value, are collectively worth the cost of a fire extinguisher and an alarm, and those, the majority, who work in the smaller factories, the `informal’ factories, they are less than dirt, less than the ash that fills the air and covers the earth after a massive fire. Saturday’s factory fire in New Delhi was a planned massacre of workers, the majority of whom were women. It won’t be the last such massacre.

(Photo Credit: The Hindu / R. V. Moorthy)

In France, women demand an end to femicide now, without delay!

On Saturday, the French women’s organization Féminicides par compagnons ou ex reported a woman in Perpignan had been killed by her partner on Friday, July 5. That murder raised the number of women killed by partners this year in France to 74. Thanks to the work of various women’s organizations, for the past few days French media have been filled with articles concerning women killed by current and ex-partners, femicide, and the complete inaction of the State. On Saturday, tens of thousands of women and supporters protested in the streets of Paris. According to Nous Toutes, on Saturday, over 60,000 women and supporters across France protested and demanded action on Saturday. Today, the French press reported that, on Saturday, July 6, a woman in Yvelines, not far from Paris, was killed by her partner, raising the death toll to 75. The French government responded that they would start doing something in September. Why wait until September? Because August is vacation. Nous Toutes replied, “Monsieur le Président, les violences ne prennent pas de vacances. Nous ne pouvons pas attendre le 3 septembre. Des mesures peuvent être prises avant l’été pour faire cesser les féminicides.” Violence does not take a vacation. 

Tomorrow, women will go to the police to file complaints that will be refused.” 

In 2016, 123 women in France were killed by their current or former partners. Their complaints were refused. In 2017, 130 women in France were killed by their partners or ex partners. Their complaints were refused. Prominent women and women unknown to the public agree, “It’s a massacre.” Their assessment is refused. According to Féminicides par compagnons ou ex, last week alone, four women were killed by their current or former partners. Their complaints were refused. Gülçin Kaplan lodged five formal complaints against her former husband. Police did nothing, and in doing nothing refused those complaints. In January, Gülçin Kaplan was stabbed to death by her former husband. That was January. 

The women are killed by their current or former partners. The murderers are covered, embraced, supported and protected by the State. This happens everywhere. In England, rape survivors are disbelieved and viciously, intrusively cross examinedIn Indonesia, a woman provides damning evidence of her employer’s sexual harassment, and she’s sentenced to six months in jail. And that’s just from today’s news. Women are assaulted with impunity by their partners because their partners have been given immunity by the State. While France is not exceptional, the mobilization by women in France remains noteworthy.

Across France, women are saying, first, that femicide exists in France and that it must be included in French law. As of now, femicide is considered a “sociological” phenomenon, not a legal or criminal oneWomen are saying that femicide exists in France, and the State must stop claiming it never imagined such things could happen “at home”Across France, women are saying that words are fine, but concrete and immediate actions are demanded, and they point to Spain’s recent engagements with femicide, engagements in concrete policy implementationsAcross France, women are saying, “Never again!” and “Stop the massacre!” Across France, women are demanding an emergency plan that recognizes the urgency of the massacre, of the threat to women’s daily lives and futuresAcross France, women are demanding to know what exactly is the value of a woman’s life.

Across France, women are demanding action now. September is too late to start a “national debate”. In fact, July is too late for that debate. The time for action is now, because tomorrow, a woman will go to the police files complaints that will be refused.

(Photo Credit 1: France Culture / Denis Meyer / Hans Lucas / AFP)

(Photo Credit 2: Panorama)

Today is July 4, 2019: There is nothing to celebrate here

Yesterday, July 3, 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics released the drawings below, done by children who had been held, caged, in immigrant detention centers on the U.S. Southern Border. The AAP said, simply, “The American Academy of Pediatrics believes no time in detention is healthy or safe for children.”

Today is July 4, 2019. There is nothing to celebrate here.

(Photo Credits: American Academy of Pediatrics / Facebook)

In Sudan, “this revolution is women’s revolution!”

In Sudan, on December 19, 2018, people took to the streets to protest a precipitous rise in bread prices. Since then, protests have persisted and grown. As so often in food uprisings, the price of food was the visible spark that revealed an undergrowth of fire, and, as so often, women of Sudan set and sustained the sparkOn June 3, freedom loving, democracy building people, `civilians’, `protesters’ were butchered by the so-called Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, under the leadership of Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, also known as Hemeti, also known as the Frankenstein of Khartoum.The RSF are also known as the Janjaweed, the group that terrorized Darfur for years, with particularly brutal violence against women. Killing at least 128 people, brutalizing everyone, raping women en masse, was meant to intimidate the masses, especially the women, into silence and submission. It didn’tOn June 30, in response to a call for a “millions march”, hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets. Eleven people were killed. On Monday, a call was issued for mass civil disobedience on July 14. Your news media may or may not be covering these events, but, in Sudan, the revolution continues, and, in Sudan, this revolution is women’s revolution: “Throughout Sudan’s ongoing revolution, women have led the chants for freedom, justice and peace.” Women have led and women are leading.

While Sudanese women attach a multitude of meanings and aspirations to freedom, justice and peace, they are united and uniform in their insistence that the military step down and turn over power to civilian authority. To that end, the women are united in their determination that the movement in Sudan for freedom, justice and peace is a revolutionary movement. That means that those who committed atrocities, and particularly those who used rape and other forms of sexual violence and intimidation as a weapon of State, will be held accountable. While many women differ on what sorts of freedom they want, for women, for everyone, they are clear and united in the determination that this is the moment to broaden and deepen the space(s) for freedom, for women and for everyone. 

For 30 years, Sudanese women have organized and mobilized to end the dictatorship and to establish a just, egalitarian, democratic, free society and nation-State. For 30 years, women in Sudan have refused to sit down, shut up, disappear. When the current regime shut the internet, women opened windows and doors, as they have done for the past three decades. In Sudan, today, women are organizing, mobilizing, chanting, singing, refusing to be shut down or shut out, demanding freedom, chanting, “Long live the struggle of Sudanese women!” “This revolution is women’s revolution!”

(Photo Credit 1: Global Fund for Women) (Photo Credit 2: BBC / EPA)

From February 2018 to May 2019, four women have died at HMP Styal. Who cares?

“In the United Kingdom, forty per cent of sentenced women serve three months or less, and yet somehow manage to `harm themselves’ at a rate of three incidents per inmate. Women prisoners’ self harm is neither epidemic nor outbreak. It’s life. It’s part of the harm of being a woman in a neoliberal political economy. The Corston Report: a review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system, a review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the U.K. criminal justice system, said as much in March, 2007. Behind the Corston Commission Report sits HMP Styal, `one of the largest women’s prisons’ in the U.K. Between August 2002 and August 2003, six women died at Styal … That was then. This is now. February 27, 2009:  `The chief inspector of prisons has warned of more deaths at Styal women’s prison if services for vulnerable inmates do not improve…. John Gunn, brother of Lisa Marley, who died at Styal in January last year, asked: `How many more women have to die before something is done?’” That was then, ten years ago, to the day. This is today: From February 2018 to May 2019, four women have died at HMP Styal: Nicola Birchall, 41, February 2018; Imogen Mellor, 29, June 2018; Christine MacDonald, 56, March 2019; Susan Knowles, 48, May 2019. None of the deaths was treated as suspicious. BBC News reports, “The latest HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ report, in May 2018, was positive.” 

Here is what “positive” looks like: “95% of women said that they had problems on arrival. 53% said they had a problem with illicit drugs on arrival and 27% had an alcohol problem. 72% reported having a mental health problem. There were 735 incidents of self-harm in the six months to March 2018. Four women were transferred under the Mental Health Act in the six months to March 2018. 65% of women released who were not on home detention curfew did not have sustainable accommodation. Some women had been in and out of custody up to 11 times in 12 months.” Positive.

According to the most recent Safety in Custody Statistics, England and Wales, the general picture for incarcerated women, including remand prisoners, is equally grim: “Self-harm trends differ considerably by gender, with a rate of 570 incidents per 1,000 in male establishments (with incidents up 25% on the previous year) compared to a rate of 2,675 per 1,000 in female establishments (an increase of 24% in the number of incidents from the previous year). In the 12 months to December 2018, the number of self-harm incidents per self-harming prisoner was 4.0 for males, and 8.3 for females, increases from 3.5 and 7.0 respectively in 2017.” The majority of self-harm happens to those who have been in custody 31 days to 3 months. 

The latest Inspectorate report on HMP Styal was positive concerning the prison’s attempt to follow recommendations from earlier reports, but the situation remains dire, and that’s the point. The individual deaths of Nicola Birchall, Imogen Mellor, Christine MacDonald, and Susan Knowles are suspicious, as are the high rates of self-harm. 

In 2007, Baroness Corston noted, “There are many women in prison, either on remand or serving sentences for minor, non-violent offences, for whom prison is both disproportionate and inappropriate. Many of them suffer poor physical and mental health or substance abuse or had chaotic childhoods. Many have been in care … I have been dismayed at the high prevalence of institutional misunderstanding within the criminal justice system of the things that matter to women and at the shocking level of unmet need … There can be few topics that have been so exhaustively researched to such little practical effect as the plight of women in the criminal justice system.”

That was 2007, sparked by conditions in HMP Styal. It’s 2019, and still few topics have been so exhaustively researched to such little practical effect as the plight of women in the criminal justice system. Every death, injury, harm, unmet need, vulnerability is suspicious and should be treated as such. What happened to Nicola Birchall, Imogen Mellor, Christine MacDonald, and Susan Knowles? Nothing. There is nothing celebrate here.

(No More Prison)