Wakefield Prison

Prayers – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 14th June 1985.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Chair, Treasury & Civil Service Sub-Committee, Opposition Whip (Commons) 9:34 am, 14th June 1985

I beg to ask leave to present a petition sent by Mr. Steven Alfred Wilkins, a former constituent of mine, at present in prison in Wakefield prison. It begins:

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Steven Alfred Wilkins sheweth— and I should like to read extracts from this long petition. Mr. Wilkins is serving a life sentence. He has spent four years at Parkhurst prison and was then transferred to Wakefield prison. He finds the regime at Wakefield prison unacceptable. He says: I find Wakefield prison as oppressive and provocative.

I feel I am no longer treated as a person but as a prisoner and the quality of life here is such that any unlawful disturbance is welcome in order to break the monotony and create excitement which is suppressed by the strict system here …

The two opposing systems of Parkhurst and Wakefield achieve different results and create opposite attitudes … For example in Parkhurst category 'A' prisoners move to various activities and functions within the prison along with the non-category 'A' prisoners and are allowed the same freedom of movement within the security of the prison as the other inmates.

In Wakefield, category 'A' prisoners are escorted as a separate group to all activities such as exercise, workshops, canteen, medicine hatch and other functions. This may sound justifiable from a security standpoint but the effects of this constant supervision are adverse.

Parkhurst and other long term prisons have shown that such strict supervision is not necessary to maintain security and like other inmates I myself recognise such and it is resented and contributed to a derisory attitude. He says that recreation at Wakefield is extremely limited because the governor refuses to leave cell doors open throughout the recreation period which consists of only TV, snooker or board games …

The mental and sociological consequences of this restriction are these; prisoners in such a false and unnatural environment need to maintain during years in prison as near as possible a sense of normalcy in order to stave off institutionalisation and a degenerating of social skills and accepted social standards.

The restricting of social interaction to TV, snooker and board games is not conducive to the mental and social well being of inmates.

Not only do inmates need a period of solace away from the ever present observation of staff in order to socialise together in a relaxed manner but need also to maintain their identity.

There exists here in Wakefield as in other long term prisons a large compound containing a football pitch, volley ball court and ample room for jogging or just walking, but yet again unlike other long term prisons exercise during the weekdays here at Wakefield is restricted to a small yard measuring 83 paces—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order The hon. Gentleman is giving us a great deal of detail, but this is a petition, not a speech.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Chair, Treasury & Civil Service Sub-Committee, Opposition Whip (Commons)

It is a rather long petition, Mr Speaker I wish to conclude the extract and present the petition I am reading only extracts.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order That is not the procedure for petitions It sounds as if the hon. Gentleman is making an Adjournment debate speech

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Chair, Treasury & Civil Service Sub-Committee, Opposition Whip (Commons)

I should like to conclude the extract He says: we see it as unnecessary oppression because we know it does not happen in other long term prisonsAll this is seen as insecurity on the part of the authority He talks of Wakefield being aggravating, provocative, apathetic and aggressive It produces people who become resentful, rebellious, disrespectful and everything a convict is supposed to be He finishes: your petitioner, as in duty bound will ever pray, that the adverse aspects of the system here at Wakefield prison will be rectified in the interests of law and order for the benefit of both, offenders and societyTo lie upon the Table