Building Bridges Or Building Reputation?

I attended a meeting called building bridges day, which was set up by various organisations. Mainly, HM Prison Service, NOMS (National Offender Management Service), MCA (Muslim Chaplains Association) which is aimed at communities working together to stop re-offending and to provide better services within the prison system. Many other different organisations, MP’s and volunteers attending and there were roughly three hundred people present at the meeting. I went with an open mind and my initial thoughts on this meeting were that it is an excellent attempt to bring together all the people that mattered and were capable of making a real difference and reflected sincerity on all parts. There were Imams from prisons involved speaking about progress and there were representatives from HMP Service. After hearing these people talk I was very impressed as they sounded sincere as though they really wanted a change and were reaching out to the Muslim community.

Throughout my campaign against racism and protection for those prisoners who require it most, all I have ever wanted to do is have my voice heard. The opportunity to be present with all of these people, all under one roof was almost like a dream come true for me. I have attempted writing to MP’s, Governors, and the HMP Service and felt nobody was listening and I never got an adequate response.

After a series of introductions there were workshops in which again organisations were speaking about how they want to go forward and help in any way they can and attempts that have already been made. I then heard a talk which inspired me with hope and confidence that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Nick Pascoe, the London area Manager of HMP Service spoke about Zahid Mubarak and how he was delighted to have this opportunity to work with all these organisations and with Muslims and how he aims to tackle the very same problem that I am addressing. After hearing this speech I was expecting some sort of discussion, or questions and answers, but there wasn’t any. However, I had made my mind up at that point that I would address my problem to him personally as he sounded both sincere and passionate about his work and we both were tackling the same issue.

When the break came, I realised there wouldn’t be any opportunity to air my concerns, so I approached him personally. I introduced myself and told him exactly what had happened with Omar Khyam, Eesa Barot and Hussein Osman. I spoke for a good five minutes and I received no response from him. I spoke about how the prison was racist and horrific attacks taking place and the Governor knowing full well this was taking place and the Prison service’s lack of concern. But sadly, it appeared as though my words fell upon deaf ears. There was no expression of remorse that these horrific incidents were taking place and the first words that came out of his mouth were; “There are racist people everywhere, there is not much we can do about that”. I was shocked that this same man who stood up in front of everyone and spoke about Zahid Mubarak’s racist attack about wanting to eradicate racism and was in a position of influence, being the area manager, a person who could make a change, responded in this manner. I then went on to say, the guards and the governor are aware that Frankland is a racist prison and I believe moving them there was done on purpose and that Nick Pascoe was not taking me seriously and will only take me seriously when my husband is killed, and will become another Zahid Mubarak for them to talk about. And why does it have to come to that to get action or concern from them. He didn’t say anything. I even said I hold him, HMP Service, and the governor of Frankland responsible for the attacks taking place. And I kept trying to explain the seriousness of the situation and asked him at least to say he will speak to somebody for me if he can’t do anything for me. He then said he would talk to somebody but not in a very reassuring tone. He was then called away and I didn’t get an opportunity to get his contact details. At this point I was really disheartened and began to question the motive of this meeting. Was it really to build bridges? Was it really to bridge the gap? Was it really to establish a solution? Or was it simply to build a reputation? 

Further to my disappointment was the response from the Muslim Imams from the prisons. They made mention of the minor  issues, but when we brought the bigger issues to their attention, they avoided the major issues at hand. It felt that nobody really wanted to deal with the real problems we are facing. I left early as I couldn’t stand to be in this fake environment anymore.

 There is an article in the Guardian (click here to view article) in which Phil Wheatley, the director general of HMP Service, has spoken about issues in prison.

He warned against a strategy of concentrating convicted terrorists, arguing that the experience of the H-blocks in the Maze prison in Northern Ireland had shown that it led to their forming tight cells in which they could plot further acts in and out of prison and radicalise others. “If we have a very large increase that takes us beyond our current category A capacity then we would have to build more high-security prisons or convert existing prisons, giving them extra security,” said Mr. Wheatley. “I am confident we would not be left trying to look after category A prisoners with no prisons to keep them in.” He said the balance in the argument lay with dispersing convicted terrorist prisoners throughout the high-security prison estate, with renewed efforts to monitor their activities and counter any attempts to radicalise others.

Previously, the HMP Service claimed their reasons for moving these prisoners to Frankland were due to no space, where as in this article, he clearly states that there’s plenty of space and not just that, but they are dispersing them on purpose. And in particular cases, to racist prisons. The question still remains, who will protect the prisoners in the prisons if the authorities are evading the issues?

Written by Umm Ibrahim

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1 Comment »

  1. Umm Ayyub Said:

    Assalamu alaikum Umm Ibrahim,

    SubhanAllah look how Allah constantly reminds us that the non muslims cannot be auliya (supporters) of the muslims. I’m pretty sure that if it was a non-muslim prisoner being mentioned, there would be a lot more action taken.

    I can imagine you must’ve been very dissappointed sis but inshaAllah do not despair because Allah swt is there to hear your dua and when you have reached the high station that Allah wills for you & your husband to reach, will your duas be granted, inshaAllah. Sis inshaAllah see this as a purification for yourself and your husband and make dua that on yaum ul Qiyamah you are raised in a state that is pure due to your hardship in this life. Ameen.


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