Smoke cannons and balloons let off outside Holloway Prison in feminist protest

But ministry of Justice defends its prison and probation spending

Sisters uncut demo credit Jade Jackman

‘Black lives matter and the lives of all women matter’ Photo: Jade Jackman

Feminist protesters let off balloons outside HMP Holloway yesterday to commemorate the 77 women who have died in prison in the last 10 years.

Sisters Uncut, a direct action group, also set off purple and green smoke canons and gave rallying speeches in protest against female incarceration.

They urged the government to invest in women’s refuge and domestic violence centres rather than in building new super prisons.

The ‘direct action’ group, which protests cuts to women’s services such as domestic violence centres, has accused the government of perpetuating racial and sexist violence against women, by locking them up for minor offences and failing to recognise that women in prison are often first victims themselves.

Half of women in prison report being victims of domestic abuse. The women offenders charity chief last year said it had been “the worst ever” for funding.

Tia Wright, a member of Sisters Uncut who spoke at the event, said: “We can not separate the fight against domestic violence from the fight against state violence. Prisons don’t work, austerity doesn’t work. The Tories are building nine mega-prisons because they see it as easier to deal with poverty with prison than welfare.”

sisters uncut protest holloway prison smoke canons

Fuming: protesters against female incarceration let off smoke outside Holloway prison

The protest was planned as part of the Women and Trans* Week of Action Against the Prison Industrial Complex called by the Empty Cages Collective, with the aim of raising awareness of the violence suffered by women, ethnic minorities and trans people incarcerated and detained in the UK.

The Ministry of Justice told PWUK it wants to see fewer women offending and reoffending.

A spokesperson said: “We want to make sure women prisoners serve their sentences in more humane surroundings that support their rehabilitation, maintain strong family ties and keep them out of crime.

“HMP Downview will re-open as a women’s prison on 3 May and offer some of the best facilities in the female estate, including single cells, more outside space, and, in due course, a dedicated resettlement unit which will help women return to the community.

“However, as the Prime Minister said, we must consider alternative ways of dealing with female offenders, especially where children are involved. That’s why we are looking into options including tagging, problem-solving courts and alternative resettlement units.”

The protesters live tweeted throughout the event:

Watch this video of smoke canons and balloons:


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