Protesting Royal College of Psychiatrists endorsement of abuse and cruelty

By Payday men’s network

Protest in front of Royal College of Psychiatrists, 28 June 2021

On Monday 28 June, Legal Action for Women, Payday men’s network and Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike coordinated a protest against the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) supported by Prisoner Solidarity Network, Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association, Community Action on Prison Expansion and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

The RCPsych has been covering up abuse and solitary confinement in prisons and has even given ‘Enabling Environment’ awards to Close Supervision Centres (CSCs) – prisons within prisons where men are held in solitary confinement, locked in their cells for 22 or more hours per day for months or years with no right of appeal against their confinement to anybody outside the CSC system.

Sam from Payday

Former prisoners as well as campaigners spoke out against the brutal racist conditions in British prisons, particularly in CSCs where Kevan Thakrar (who brought to our attention the CSC-endorsement from the RCPsych) has been held in Solitary for the past 11 years. One former prisoner from the Prisoner Solidarity Network noted that,

“The close supervision centres, the torture centres, [are] intended and designed to break the spirit and the resistance of strong principled prisoners like Kevan Thakrar… [The prison system] called on our friends in the Royal College of Psychiatrists, to legitimise the torture of difficult, rebellious prisoners.”

John Bowden, ex prisoner from Prisoner Solidarity Network

The protest heard an audio recording from Kevan Thakrar about the conditions he is being held in:

“Currently I am detained for around 23 hours a day in total isolation in a cell that has no toilet seat or toilet lid, no in-cell electric, no storage facility. The window is just bars that have fixed glass attached to it and cannot be opened… When you come out of your cell, you are in isolation at all times: whether I’m in the phone box, like I am now, locked in in isolation; exercise: in isolation in a cage on my own; shower: I’m locked in there on my own… the only thing CSCs are enabling is abuse and racism.”

Kevan’s mum, Jean Thakrar, added,

“We’ve been waiting 11 years for him to be released from CSC. And it keeps coming around the corner. They keep having meetings and you think maybe this is the time but it never happens… They don’t treat CSC visitors properly either: they make us wait longer. My mother-in-law when she was coming in her wheelchair, she’s 82 years old, she needed to stand up from the wheelchair for them to search her…she almost fell over because she was wobbling.”

Jean Thakrar, Kevan’s mum

Niki Adams from Legal Action for Women pointed out that,

“We need to remember that many women also get put in solitary, particularly trans women prisoners who are put in solitary immediately they go into prison. And in the US particularly, women get put in solitary for speaking out about rape in prison… Unless we come together, we can’t win. And we’re determined to win, to get Kevan out of CSC, to get Kevan out of prison, to get the other prisoners out of prison, and to put the real criminals behind bars.”

Didi from WinVisible (Women with visible and invisible disabilities) connected the RCPsych’s endorsement of prison institutions with the treatment of people in mental institutions:

“We wanted to also connect this with the women and men and people of all genders, who are put in psychiatric institutions, and instead of getting help and support are locked away in solitary confinement, people with autism, people with other mental health issues and disabilities… we also want to say how many people are tasered, some of the women in our network have been tasered, while being put in these institutions.”

Niki from Legal Action for Women

Michael from Payday men’s network and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK pointed to the complicity of the medical profession in other contexts:

“The Royal College of Psychiatry is covering up prisoner abuse. It’s part of a long line of doctors complicit with torture and worse… the US health professionals worked with the military and intelligence services in Guantanamo… In 2009, 725 doctors from 43 countries, including the UK, challenged the Israeli medical and psychiatric establishment’s complicity with torture. … This is a fantastic protest because this is a coming together of the prisoners’ solidarity movement, the women’s movement, the anti-racist movement, the anti-Zionist movement… And that’s how we will win against the Royal College of Psychiatrists.”

And Cristel, from Support Not Separation, said of the RCPsych,

“These are the people that the authorities turn to in order to take children… away from loving and protecting mothers. And it’s the mothers who are told that they must have psychiatric assessment in the family court.”

Sara from Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike

While Sara from Women of Colour / Global Women’s Strike said,

“We’re here because of racism in the prison system. People of colour are more likely to be criminalised… we’re more likely to go to prison…One in five prisoners is Black and one in seven is Muslim … We’re determined to carry on this campaign to discredit the Royal College of Psychiatrists until they stop supporting CSCs.”

Lu from the All African Women’s Group said,

“We feel your struggle, as many sisters in our group have been in detention, treated as criminals for crimes we didn’t commit. We have resisted in several ways like going on hunger strike. The Home Office is determined to continue tormenting innocent women and men, and the big corporations are working with and corrupting NGOs and professional organisations like the RCPsych… We demand the release of our brother Kevan and that close supervision centres and solitary confinement are ended.”

Lu from All African Women Group

A speaker from Community Action on Prison Expansions (CAPE) added that,

“No matter what happens in this country, whether it is a rise in violence, whether it is a rise in poverty, whether it is a global pandemic, the response is always more police on the streets, more prisons, more laws. Yet the rate of violence has not changed, the danger to our communities has not changed. We are just being more harassed, more policed, more abused by the state, as they get more and more entrenched in every part of our lives. That is part of what the psychiatric-industrial complex does.”

Other speakers included spokespeople from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism and the Prisoners Solidarity Network.

Several protesters brought their own placards making clear their outrage at the abuse of psychiatry in all kinds of institutions and areas of modern-day life. The RCPsych should be in no doubt that our campaign against its complicity in abuse and cruelty will continue.

The protest was reported in The Canary, the Morning Star, Minority Perspective, FRFI Northeast London and The Justice Gap.