Solitary confinement is torture!

The UN agrees, anyone with a conscience agrees, even the scum over at the Department of Corrections agree: solitary confine is torture. But change the name, call it “23-hour lockdown” and suddenly Corrections is perfectly fine with it. Well, we’re not. Corrections can pull whatever linguistic stunt they want; the meanings of words are determined by use and what they refer to not, whether those in power prefer to be known as “torturers” or not. Corrections is currently using solitary confinement to torture a trans woman in a men’s prison, her mental health is suffering as a direct result as reported her advocates at No Pride in Prisons. The prison is a violent institution for all it places within its walls. It is rotten to the core. But for trans people this is magnified even further. Systemic transphobia is present at every part of the prison industrial complex.

Yesterday No Pride In Prisons coordinated a nationwide picket of Corrections, with demonstrations outside Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin offices. We were there to protest the existence of the prison, the use of solitary confinement and the disgusting way trans women are treated in New Zealand prisons. Most urgently however we were there because this trans woman’s immediate mental and physical health is under constant attack. She is a victim of a prison state detached entirely from human need. At the picket we were told how she has often been trapped in her cell for entire days simply because Corrections cannot spare the staff to let her out. We were also told of the frequent abuse at the hands of both staff and inmates that she is forced to endure. We protested because no one should ever have to go through this hell and whenever someone is made to we will be there fighting for the victim’s rights to dignity and respect. In short we protested for justice, a thing Corrections has never found it possible to provide. This failure illustrates the absolute need to abolish corrections prisons and police.

Also discussed at the picket (crossed gleefully by everyone at the Department of Corrections) was how we go about tearing down the prison and the need for a mass movement to complete such a task. Neither reform nor abolition comes about by “tinkering at the edges” of a monster as rotten as our criminal injustice system. Only a movement can both win and defend gains to make life more tolerable for prisoners. No politician’s mandate and no police officer’s kind feelings will ever stop the tasering, beating, and pepper spraying of the public because capitalism needs a repressive status apparatus to function. Only people on the streets, people putting their bodies onto the cogs of the prison industrial complex are capable of bringing it to a halt. And only a committed struggle for prisoner’s rights and wellbeing at every turn is capable of creating the social forces able to complete our task.

In the meantime between here and abolition there is a whole litany of violence to be resisted. After today’s actions the woman NPIP is advocating for is still in solitary confinement. Corrections have said they will look into the situation on Monday – a lie they have historically had no qualm with repeating every time they are spoken to. But those in power do fear our resistance: they bought out 4 police vans and in excess of 30 police officers for our – relatively – small contingent of protestors. The state will never give prisoners their rights without a fight and for that reason alone we have no intention to stop fighting until the state is destroyed.

Brick by Brick, Wall by Wall, We Will Make These Prisons Fall

Picture credit: Gowan Ditchburn