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Former prisoners join protest against centres where inmates are held in isolation

FORMER prisoners were joined by campaigners outside the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London today in protest against its endorsement of centres where inmates are held in isolation.

The demonstration, organised by a coalition of groups, highlighted that close-supervision centres (CSCs) use a level of confinement and deprivation of contact with others that is comparable to solitary confinement.

In CSCs, inmates say they are held in segregation units and locked in their cells for 22 hours or more per day, for months or years, with no independent right of appeal.

Prisoners have described being fed through a hatch and isolated from family and external support.

According to the UN’s Nelson Mandela Rules on the treatment of prisoners, being held in solitary confinement for more than 14 days is unlawful. 

Amnesty International has condemned CSCs as “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” and campaigners say that CSCs are institutionally racist, with 50 per cent of prisoners held in such centres being Muslim.

But the Royal College of Psychiatrists — the main professional organisation of psychiatrists in Britain — has endorsed CSCs as “enabling environments” that focus on creating a “positive and effective social environment.”

Sara Callaway of Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike, one of the groups in the coalition, said: “We are part of this campaign because CSCs are racist, and women end up picking up the pieces when men are abused within them.

“We will be making our voices heard until the Royal College of Psychiatrists stops covering up for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. CSCs and solitary confinement must end.”

Other groups in the coalition are Legal Action for Women, Payday men’s network, Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association, Community Action on Prison Expansion, Fight Racism Fight Imperialism and the Prisoner Solidarity Network.

The college has been approached for comment.

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