Oral Answers to Questions — Lewes Prison (Disturbance)

– in the House of Commons on 19th November 1942.

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Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give any information in connection with the disorders at Lewes Prison when about 100 prisoners attempted to rush the prison gates on Friday, 23rd October; and what was the cause of the trouble?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

The disturbance occurred on Tuesday, 20th October. Four men managed to get on to the roof of the chapel which was undergoing repair and it was not possible to get them down for about two hours. This defiance of authority—the men shouted and rang the chapel bell—created an atmosphere of excitement in the prison and provoked in some prisoners a spirit of indiscipline. (Laughter.) Well, it was no joke for the prison authorities for the moment. As a result, while the prisoners were at exercise, a few men succeeded in stirring up a disorderly demonstration, of which an ostensible purpose was to demand the release from the separate cells of a prisoner who was on report for an offence committed the previous day. No violence was shown to the staff, but a few stones were thrown at windows. The Governor, however, had asked for police assistance, and when the demonstrators saw the police reinforcements they obeyed the order to return to their cells. All the prisoners concerned have been brought before the visiting magistrates who have awarded graduated punishments. The four men who got on to the roof told the visiting magistrates that they were demonstrating because the evening meal was too early, and because the sugar supplied was insufficient. The sugar ration for prisoners is the same as for other people, and it appears that these complaints were afterthoughts advanced as pleas in mitigation. Amongst the other delinquents there were individuals who each pleaded that he joined in the disturbance because he was frightened of what the others would do to him if he deserted them.