Advent 19

December 2022

A prison door is, I find, a frightening image. It evokes the horror of being shut in – locked up – of not being able to get out. A loss of freedom. Metaphorically I wonder what things imprison us? Or what things, what fears, do we lock away so that we don’t have to face up to them?

Advent is a good time to unlock the prison doors in our lives, to free ourselves from constriction.

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,

   I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

I have given you as a covenant to the people,

   a light to the nations, 

   to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

   from the prison those who sit in darkness. Isaiah 42:6-7

Do not fear, for I am with you,

   do not be afraid, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

   I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Green Tau issue 59

13th December 2022

This Green Tau is a brief personal comment on the prison system in the UK followed by a statement from a climate activist who is currently in prison.

I have been a lightweight climate activist having only been arrested once as part of a protest trying to establish a responsible and practical response to the climate crisis. My daughter has been more physically active, with the support of her parents. She has taken part in a number of Just Stop Oil protests this year, blockading roads, oil refineries and petrol stations, and most recently climbing on to one of the M25 gantries. It is for this last action that she has been placed in prison on remand. Currently (mid December) she has been at Bronzefield Prison for four weeks.

For us as parents this is heart breaking as once in prison people are not treated as humans who have rights. In part this is the nature of the UK prison system and in part it is due to the underfunding of the system. Prisoners have little control over their lives and no recall when things that should happen do not. Heidi’s cell mate’s name was omitted from the meal list for 6 days during which time no meals were prepared for her. Heidi shared hers plus the kitchen staff gave them any left overs. 

If there are staff shortages, they may spend 23 hours in their cell. 

Books can be sent in but only from approved suppliers and there is usually a delay of a week between parcels arriving and being handed over. 

To access any activity such as using the library, the education department or the gym, permission must first be requested via a computer terminal, then approved and even then it is dependent on staff being available to collect and take the prisoner to and from their cell. 

Visits are more frequent for remand prisoners but still work out at an average of one a week.

Heidi, hopefully, will only be in prison for a short while – maybe three months; we are not sure. But for prisoners there on long sentences the experience must be soul destroying and can not in anyway be expected to improve people’s ability to live good and fulfilled lives. 

Personal Statement – AVS Russenberger

I am currently being held on remand at HMP Bronzefield, charged with ‘Recklessly and Intentionally Causing a Public Nuisance’.  This is slightly ironic, as the government’s reckless intention to license over 100 new oil and gas sites will lead to more than just a ‘public nuisance’; it will contribute to irreversible, catastrophic climate breakdown and the loss of millions of lives and livelihoods.

We saw the beginnings of climate breakdown this year.  Temperatures reached over 50ºC in Pakistan and India; 33 million people were affected by floods in Pakistan; climate induced famine in East Africa kills one person every 36 seconds.  In the UK, temperatures reached 40ºC resulting in 6,000 excess deaths; the London Fire Brigade had their busiest day since the Second World War; half of the wheat crops were lost and a projected one quarter of the potato harvest.

This will only get much, much worse. Small island states, low lying countries, and equatorial regions will become uninhabitable.  Devastating floods, wildfires, and drought will become commonplace.  Resources will become scarce, leading to conflict, and a rise in violence and abuse of women, girls, and the LGBT community.  Global crop failures will result in famine and soaring food prices.  We are struggling with the cost of living crisis now, but it is only going to get far, far worse.  But the government is more concerned by a ‘public nuisance’ than this global disaster.

I’ve signed petitions and letters, held placards, voted in every election I can, but the government has continued to pursue an immoral policy of issuing new fossil fuel licences.  More oil and gas will not reduce fossil fuel emissions or address the cost of living, it will only make it worse and threaten the lives and futures of people in the UK and abroad.  The media has been negligent and failed to inform the public of the scale and projected impact of the climate crisis, and has failed to hold the government to account.  I felt that the only option left for me was to continue to protest and refuse to be ignored, because human lives are precious, and worth more than a temporary public nuisance.