You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Strangeways’ tag.

Stephanie De Leng‘s Inside HMP Manchester is a very low-key but intriguing exhibition (by appointment only) currently on in Liverpool.

De Leng says:

“I have been allowed inside HM Prison Manchester, formerly known as Strangeways, to document its workings, staff, and prisoners who are willing. This is a delicate project built on trust, and follows in the wake of a TV documentary in the coming months. It is the first time that a photographer or camera crew have been allowed inside this prison since the 1990 riots. A lot has changed since then in a very positive way, and for my part I intend to document it honestly, and not in a grim trying to dish the dirt way. There is a lot of good to say, or show in my case.”

So far, de Leng – trying to avoid “bland corporate” style portraits – has focused on photographing the staff. She hopes to slowly bring more and more images of the prison to wider audiences over a period of time. Softly, softly. I’m intrigued.

Officer Alan Blocksidge, Butler Trust winner and MBE for his work rehabilitating drug addicts within HM Prison Manchester. Photo Credit: Stephanie de Leng

Inside HMP Manchester

De Leng’s photographs will be on show at Baltic Creative as part of LOOK2011, the inaugural Liverpool Photography Festival based around the theme “Is Seeing Believing?”

LOOK2011 says:

“It has been 21 years since the ‘Strangeways’ Prison riot, the 26 day roof top protest that changed the face of the prison system. The riot in April 1990 resulted in the partial destruction of the old Victorian wings and the injury of 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners. The disturbance inspired copycat riots at a number of other prisons, including HMP Bristol and HMP Dartmoor. A five-month public enquiry ensued, resulting in The Woolf Report which served as an ongoing blueprint for the reform of the prison system. ‘Inside HMP Manchester’ is intended to make the viewer set their normal prejudices and assumptions aside, and to look at justice from another angle.”

The exhibition is by appointment only. Except on May 13th, when Baltic Creative will be open between 6 – 9pm for the Light Night. Stephanie de Leng will be present to discuss her works. The Baltic Creative Center, 22 Jordan Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 0BW, UK. 0151 703 2005

STRANGEWAYS ELSEWHERE ON PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY

Former Governor of Strangeways: “Give UK Prisoners the Vote.” And in the US?

Strangeways, 20th Anniversary

Ged Murray at Strangeways

Strangeways Riot and Don McPhee

Strangeways, Manchester, UK. April 1990. Credit: Manchester Evening News

UK PRISONER VOTING RIGHTS

Brendan O’Friel, the governor in charge of Strangeways during 25 days of famous unrest beginning April 1st, 1990 has backed moves to give UK prisoners the vote.

O’Friel says the controversy is being deliberately stirred up for political reasons. He told the Manchester Evening News:

“I think it is a totally sensible thing to give prisoners the right to vote and then encourage them to vote. Whatever those people have done it is a question of trying to make sure that they are going to make a contribution to the community rather than being a drain on it. Anything we can do to encourage them to take responsibility and think positively is a very good thing.”

O’Friel’s view is not the concensus in the UK. In November 2010, The European Court of Human Rights ruled that denying the vote to prisoners was a violation of their human rights.

However, in early February the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to reject any lifting of the ban, opposing the move by 234 to 22. By doing so they face a class-action lawsuit which could cost the British taxpayer millions in damages for as long as the government denies prisoners their vote.

The ridiculous thing about this is that the figures (approximately 90,000) would barely effect election results. This is expensive folly by Britain’s politicians.

The UK prisoner voting ban has been in place since 1870.

For comparison, The Telegraph reports:

“Many developed countries have some form of prisoner voting including 28 other European nations such as France, Germany and Italy. Russia and Japan exclude all convicted prisoners. Just two states in America allow it while others do not even give the vote back when inmates leave prison. Prisoners can vote in two of seven states in Australia.”

PRISONER VOTING IN AMERICA

In 2010, judges in Washington State found that felon disenfranchisement laws unfairly impacted minorities as they were more likely to be subject to racial inequalities in the application of policing procedure.

From the ever-excellent Prison Law Blog:

“On Sept. 21, the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in Farrakhan v. Gregoire, an important case that could affect the voting rights of prisoners in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, California, Hawaii, and Arizona. Back in January, a split Ninth Circuit panel ruled that, in Washington State, “minorities are more likely than whites to be searched, arrested, detained, and ultimately prosecuted,” and that, because “some people becom[e] felons not just because they have committed a crime, but because of their race, then that felon status cannot, under section 2 of the [Voting Rights Act], disqualify felons from voting.”

Washington State appealed and the discussion is likely to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s about time both Britain and the U.S. move into the 21st Century. From the Sentencing Law and Policy blog:

“According to a report co-published by Human Rights Watch and The Sentencing Project, a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system, disenfranchisement laws are “a vestige of medieval times when offenders were banished from the community and suffered ‘civil death.’  Brought from Europe to the colonies, these laws gained new political salience at the end the nineteenth century when disgruntled whites in a number of Southern states adopted them and other ostensibly race-neutral voting restrictions in an effort to exclude blacks from the vote.”

For more on prisoner and ex-prisoner disenfranchisement, read Michelle Alexander. She condenses the arguments of her very successful book, The New Jim Crow, here.

STRANGEWAYS ON PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY

Strangeways, 20th Anniversary

Ged Murray at Strangeways

Strangeways Riot and Don McPhee

————————————————-

(M.E.N. story found via Jailhouse Lawyer)

Inmates in Discussion © 2009 Ged Murray

It might be that the anniversary of the most famous riot in the history of the British prison system will become an annual feature on Prison Photography?

Last year, I noted the 19th anniversary of the Strangeways Riot with looks at the work of Ged Murray and Don McPhee. This year for the big 20, I’ll point you in the direction of Ciara Leeming, fellow blogger, Northerner and Thatcher-basher. (Why is it that we children of the late seventies/early eighties can’t get out from under the iron lady’s shadow?)

Ciara:

For 25 days in April 1990, the authorities lost control of Manchester’s iconic Victorian jail and inmates took to the roof to protest against poor conditions and abusive staff. Chronic overcrowding, a lack of sanitation in the cells, frequent moves from one prison to another and poor visitation rights were among their complaints. When it all kicked off there were 1,600 men sharing 970 single cells. A series of copycat protests followed in a number of other UK jails. At Strangeways, the numbers quickly dwindled of course and by the last day just five protestors were left.

The riot left the prison in chaos and cost tens of millions of pounds and several years to repair. But more importantly, the protest and the landmark Woolf inquiry which followed it are credited as being a turning point in penal history. Many of Lord Woolf’s recommendations were too radical for the Tory administration and subsequent New Labour government to stomach and the prison population stands far higher today. But conditions at Strangeways – now HMP Manchester – and other prisons are undeniably better than they were on April Fool’s Day two decades ago.

Ciara’s just written a piece for Big Issue in the North, the UK’s magazine sold by homeless vendors in cities up and down the Isle. Download Ciara’s  Big Issue feature here.

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

To append my last post about iconic photographs of rooftop inmates during the Strangeways riot of 1990 is a nod to the work of Ged Murray. Previous lamentations at the lack of Strangeways photography were premature on my part … I just had to keep digging.

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

These are my choice shots from a series of 20 Strangeways images on Ged Murray’s website. The image below of the two inmates in discussion is iconic (according to my brother). The silhouetted tower is instantly recognisable.

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

This last image of an inmate with signs took a large portion of my time. I am still thinking it over. Unerringly, I like the image. The shot bypasses the potency of icon and dilutes our consumption of events; returning our appreciation to more modest levels, focusing on the individual lives involved during a brief but pivotal moment in the history of British governmental prison policy.

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

__________________________________

Thanks to Ged Murray for his permission to publish the images.

The Strangeways riots in 1990 led to breakthroughs in the prison system. Photograph: Don McPhee for the Guardian

The Strangeways riots in 1990 led to breakthroughs in the prison system. Photograph: Don McPhee for the Guardian

On April 1st 1990, began Britain’s largest prison riot in history. Strangeways may not mean a lot outside of the UK, but within, Strangeways, Manchester is synonymous with the romanticised image of the Northern criminal. The photographs of prisoners on the roof are iconic. Britons watched with shock.

Photo: Ged Murray

Photo: Ged Murray for the Observer

Prison conditions had rarely been in public debate. Our level of shock was only equivalent to our level of apathy, prior. The general public were in awe of the unprecedented institutional collapse.

Prisoners occupied the roof for 25 days in front of round-the-clock media coverage. The protest ended when the final five prisoners surrendered themselves peacefully on 25th April.

The estimated damage was pegged between £50 and 100 million. The true cost for the HM Prison Service was lord chief justice, Lord Woolf’s subsequent damning report, which cited inmate frustration and poor prison conditions as a main reasons for the riot.

Credit: Unknown

Photo: Ged Murray for the Observer

According to the Guardian – which includes a transcript of the prevailing exchange between proctor and prisoners – the stirrings of unrest began in the chapel following the 10am service. Prison officers evacuated the chapel and then (arguably) too hastily other areas of the prison. Inmates using keys taken from chapel guards released other inmates. Soon the overcrowded and understaffed facility was no longer in the control of government authority.

Strangeways roof protest photographs are iconic because their subject was so unexpected. Britain had harboured class and political confrontation much in the past. But in the miners strikes and clashes with police, football hooliganism, the general strike violence could be in some way predicted. The circumstances for those prior tensions had been played out through media narrative. UK Prisons were neglected; they were in desperate conditions and we – the public – were oblivious.

Don McPhee

Photographs of the Strangeways riot are hard to come by but I have gleaned a few from the web. In doing so I came across the work of the late Don McPhee.

I strongly urge you to watch this slideshow of his work.

McPhee had a 2005 exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery and is a fondly remembered northern talent. He was a crucial part of the alternative editorial voice of the Guardian at that time. That distinctly Northern paper is now internationally distributed & respected.

Miners sunbathing at Orgreave coking plant. Photograph: Don McPhee

Miners sunbathing at Orgreave coking plant. Photograph: Don McPhee

_______________________________________________________

Here is the inevitable percolating legacy of Strangeways in public dialogue.

Here, Eric Allison makes a succinct argument for British prison reform.

And here is the UK Parliament debate in 2001, ten years after the January, 1991 publication of Woolf’s report reviewing the response to the report recommendations.

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

Prison Photography Archives

Post Categories