Comrades of Elliot Cuciurean – also known as Jellytot – blockaded one of the government’s new megaprisons on Tuesday 31 January. Jellytot has been in prison since last year for breaching an injunction against protest at the High Speed 2 (HS2) train line.
In the early hours of Tuesday 31 January, protesters erected tripods to block the entrances of the megaprison construction site at Full Sutton in East Yorkshire. The government has awarded private company Kier £400m for the construction.
‘Shutting Down Construction’
The protesters said they were:
shutting down construction as an act of solidarity with the increasing numbers of protestors being sent to prison
A later update added that:
Four activists occupied the bamboo tripods for over ten hours, preventing any deliveries from being made. Police forces attended the scene but failed to remove the protestors.Protestors came down from the tripods at around 4pm, after ensuring construction was stopped for the entire day. Two arrests were made and three more were charged with aggravated trespass at the site. Those arrested were released from custody in the early hours of the morning
The campaigners explained that the action was in solidarity with their friend, and against the government’s prison expansion programme:
Today, our friend Jellytot serves his 131st day in prison.
He is 1 amongst 82,000 people in prison in England and Wales right now. Within the next few years, the government plans to create 20,000 new prison places as they ‘crack down on crime’.
He is one of many campaigners who have been imprisoned for resisting HS2. Last year Dave Buchan was sentenced to 100 days in prison for breaching an injunction at an HS2 site. He was released after an appeal in September. Another protester was sentenced to 15 weeks this week, although he had already served the time on remand.
A New Prison At Full Sutton Will Only Lead To More Violence
The new prison will sit opposite the existing HMP Full Sutton. The Canary has reported several allegations of racism and violence by prison officers at Full Sutton.
It is part of a government scheme to build six new megaprisons – as well as expanding existing ones – to create 20,000 new prison places.
If completed, Full Sutton will be the third new prison to be built as part of the New Prisons Programme.
‘No-One Should Be Incarcerated’
The campaigners released a statement which gave a strident abolitionist message:
We are not making the case that our friend is less or more deserving of prison than anyone else – we believe that no-one should be incarcerated.Prisons are oppressive institutions which perpetuate a racist and colonial ideology. They have no place in the just futures we are trying to build
‘An Authoritarian Government Tightening Its Grip’
Jellytot’s friends pointed out that the government’s repressive policies mean that more people are likely to be imprisoned in future. They called them signs of “an authoritarian government tightening its grip”:
The Government’s idea of ‘cracking down on crime’ is introducing a tidal-wave of authoritarian bills to make it illegal to protest, to strike, and to be an asylum seeker – ensuring that these prison places will be filled in no time.
Bradley, one of the campaigners – who said he has experienced firsthand the effects of recent policing policy – argued:
The government is introducing more and more draconian legislation. The PCSC Act, the Public Order Bill, the Anti-Strikes Bill, the Elections Act, the Judicial Review and Courts Act are all signs of a government sliding into authoritarianism, and attempting to silence ordinary people.
‘The Carceral System Perpetuates Harm’
The campaigners’ statement was clear that we need to build alternatives to the prison system:
As abolitionists, we understand that harm in society needs to be dealt with. However, we strongly feel the carceral system perpetuates harm for both perpetrators and victims and doesn’t deal with societal problems. Prisons ‘disappear’ people, and discriminate amongst the most marginalised people in our society.
They concluded with a call for an end to all aspects of the carceral system:
No-one should be in prison. And no one should profit from the conditions which make prisons profitable. We are calling for an end to incarceration in all its forms – whether that be prisons, psychiatric wards, detention centres or factory farms. ABOLITION, NOW.
If the government is successful in creating 20,000 new prison places, it will greatly increase the state’s capacity to lock up those who resist, and to use prison as a weapon against the most marginalised in society. We need to stop these plans in their tracks.
Featured images via the campaigners, with permission