SchNEWS Party & Protest - listing demonstrations, events, talks, screenings, and festivals
subscribe to receive SchNEWS every week by emailView all the SchNEWS back issuesFind out about the history of SchNEWS and how we work
SchNEWS - the free weekly direct action newsheet produced in Brighton, UK, since 1994 covering environmental and social issues, direct action protests and campaigns, both UK and abroad. For this week's issue, Party & Protest events listing, free SchMOVIES, archive and more click here

Prisoner Support

Why?

Prisons are the bottom line in the state's control over us. Resisting the prison system is part of challenging the status quo, but supporting those who get caught and imprisoned for their beliefs should be a vital part of any movement, too.

Writing to Prisoners

Prison is designed to grind you down, and it isolates people from the outside world. Writing to prisoners helps break this down. It might be intimidating to sit down and write a letter to a stranger, but you can keep it short the first time. Just sending a card with a few well wishes and some words about who you are can brighten up someone's day and make them feel remembered. It can also possibly lead on to a correspondence.

Some people, when they write to prisoners are afraid of talking about their lives, what they're up to, thinking this might depress someone locked up or just not be of interest. But prison life is dead boring, and any news that livens it up is generally welcome. Use your sense, don't write about things that are likely to get the prisoner into trouble with the screws or get you or anyone else into trouble.

Remember to include a return address, also on the envelope. Don't necessarily expect an answer - some prisons restrict the number of letters a prisoner can write or receive, or the person may be out of stationery/stamps, or just not be very good at writing letters.

Passing cards round meetings, the pub or among your friends for people to sign with messages of support is an easy thing to do to brighten up a prisoner's mailtime. Or maybe you have the time to start up regular letter writing sessions with your friends, with the purpose of motivating each other to write.

Sending Stuff

If you are up for it - don't offer your help if you aren't - ask what items the prisoner can receive in the post, or give the prison a ring, as this varies from prison to prison. It also often depends on which screw handles your post and what mood they're in!

Stamps: You can usually include a couple in a letter without problems - mention that you have in your letter (they might just disappear otherwise). If writing to someone outside the UK, you can include some International Reply Coupons (IRC's) that are available at any post office and can be used in place of stamps.

Stationery: Remand prisoners are normally allowed to use writing paper (not wire bound) and envelopes sent in to them. Ask convicted prisoners what they're allowed.

Books: There are different regulations on this too, so ask. More than often a prisoner can only receive books directly from the publisher - this goes for alternative magazines as well - or via a recognised distributor or bookshop. A friendly bookshop will usually oblige if you buy the book and pay for the postage.

Pamphlets/Zines: These seem to get through to most prisons in the UK okay if they're not too big and folded up inside a normal sized envelope, for some reason. They are often counted as photocopies which are, up to a certain amount, usually allowed.

Tapes: Home-recorded tapes are often allowed, but ask. Use see-through ones.

Visiting

If you are up for travelling to visit a prisoner, mention this to them. But bear in mind that convicted prisoners are only entitled to a limited number of visits (remand prisoners to much more), usually about 2-3 a month lasting up to 2 hours with 2-3 people. The prisoner will then have to send out a visiting order (V.O.) to the persons wanting to visit them, fully naming each visitor. You will need to identify yourself at the gate, so take along sufficient I.D., and 'clean up' before you go - getting caught with even the tiniest bit of drug residue or anything else dodgy can have serious consequences for the prisoner.

Other Support

Ask whether the prisoner you are in touch with wants publicity for their case, or protest letters written. If you can raise money, ask where it's needed.

Groups/contacts

There are a number of prisoner support groups around. Get in touch to find out more and to read about some of the prisoners that shouldn't be forgotten.

Brighton Anarchist Black Cross, c/o 6 Tilbury Place, Brighton BN2 2GY mail@brightonabc.org.uk check out www.brightonabc.org.uk

Earth Liberation Prisoners, BM Box 2407, London WC1N 3XX earthlibprisoner@hotmail.com check out www.geocities.com/earthlibprisoner

Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group, BCM 1160, London WC1N 3XX

Miscarriages of Justice UK, justiceUK@appleonline.net check out www.ncadc.org.uk

Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, mojo-uk@justice.com 07050-618240

Haven Distribution (books to prisoners), BM Haven, London WC1N 3XX

 
SchNEWS, PO Box 2600, Brighton, BN2 0EF, England
Phone/Fax: +44 (0)1273 685913
email: schnews@brighton.co.uk

@nti copyright - information for action - copy and distribute!