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Sisters Uncut plaster prison walls with demands for social housing

WOMEN’S rights campaigners plastered social housing demands on the construction fence around Holloway prison in London yesterday.

Sisters Uncut demanded that the site be used to serve the needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

The women’s prison was closed in 2016 due to failings in the care system following the suicide of inmate Sarah Reed, a young working-class black woman in need of mental health care.

Many of the prisoners were transferred to overcrowded facilities outside London, further isolating them from their families and support networks.

Holloway prison had a long history of violence, including the force-feeding of hunger-striking suffragettes.

Campaigners have called for the prison to be replaced with housing that is entirely for social rent and accessible, with prioritised allocation for those affected by state and domestic violence.

Sisters Uncut is urging the Ministry of Justice not to use the money from the sale of Holloway to build more prisons, but instead to spend it on creating a community-run women’s building independent of the criminal justice system.

The group initially reclaimed the space in 2017 by occupying part of the building for a week. Its demands were initially agreed by Islington Council.

However, housing association the Peabody Trust, which bought the site in March this year, is working with the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (Mopac) to finance and direct the construction of the site.

The group has warned that “this relationship undermines the potential renewal” of the space to “redress the harms of” the criminal justice system.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who approved a £42 million loan to the project, called the Peabody deal “groundbreaking” despite its lack of “genuinely affordable” homes.

Sisters Uncut activist Grace Miller said: “It’s crucial that Peabody commit to ending relations with Mopac and provide housing and resources that will benefit the most marginalised members of the local community. 

“This is an opportunity to heal a site of state violence and provide truly affordable social housing, which Islington is in desperate need of.”

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