Here are seven reasons to reject the idea of a “partial release” during Covid-19 and instead fight for the full release of all 85 000 people incarcerated around England and Wales. We write this in fierce solidarity with every single one of these people. We won’t stop fighting until all are free from prisons, immigration detention centres, psychiatric centres that detain those who are sectioned under the mental health act and all other carceral institutions of coercive state control, surveillance and punishment that weave the prison industrial complex in the UK together.
- Abolition means nobody is left inside
Calls for partial release legitimize the idea that it is okay for some people to remain incarcerated, as though these people are either more deserving of imprisonment or more able to resist Covid-19. Neither of these things are true. We need to fight for the world we want – not only a portion of it.
- Fighting for a partial release means black and brown people will be disproportionately left inside
Black and brown people are disproportionately incarcerated across the UK. Any call which necessitates leaving some people inside prison intensifies the harms of this disproportionate representation and racist sentencing, as it will be black and brown people left inside at correspondingly disproportionate rates.
- “Non-Violent” and “Low-Risk” categories are racist fallacies
The idea that only “non-violent”, “low risk” or offenders with shorter sentences should be released from prison further entrenches white supremacy and the subjugation of black and brown people that the criminal justice system was founded on and remains deeply intertwined with. Black and brown people are given longer and harsher sentences for the same “crimes” that white people commit. Additionally, the criminal justice system is more likely to sentence black and brown people for “violent” crimes than white people, as the current white supremacist world order of racial capitalism equates whiteness with vulnerability while painting everyone outside of its confines as dangerous and deviant.
- Everyone inside prison is immunocompromised
All people inside have weakened immune systems, as poor health care, mental health issues and a lack of nutrition all compromise immune systems. Being incarcerated weakens your immune system, as any period of only being able to access inadequate healthcare from inside prison will worsen people inside prisons’ physical well beings. Furthermore, mental stress has been shown to also weaken one’s immune system, and people inside prison disproportionately are those who have struggled with mental illness. Thirdly, poor nutrition, well-documented inside UK prisons, also will contribute to worsening the immune systems of those inside prison.
- Everyone inside prison is “vulnerable”, not only certain demographics of people
Everyone inside prison faces violence, marginalization and repression, so trying to categorize people by who is “more vulnerable” is nonsensical because the prison system, by its very nature of being a violent and punitive system ravaged by austerity, makes everyone inside vulnerable.
- Partial release does not work
Last month, a partial release scheme that would have only allowed for 5% of the incarcerated population in the UK to be released was put on hold, as some people who were not supposed to be released managed to get out. Now that scheme has been completely stopped. These partial-measures are ineffective and empty.
- If we don’t fight for the entirety of what what we want, we won’t ever get it
Carceral colonialism and capitalism try to convince those fighting for liberation that the idea that every single person could be liberated in this world is impossible – but this is not true. To demand partial freedom is to let these systems win and admit defeat, and in a world where hopelessness and despondency already can be a suffocating force for those of us with revolutionary imaginations of a different world, admitting defeat is not an option.