I want you to read this story of a man who died in prison having been jailed for stealing a gingerbread man. He was ill, mentally and physically. He was jailed for stealing a gingerbread man and died in a prison, having been thrown on the mercy of a state which refused to address his needs. I want you to feel the horror at the senselessness of this man’s death, of how it should have never happened.
It is a gutwrenching horror, difficult to put into words. A life ended over a gingerbread man. It pricks more keenly as you realise it is connected to so many other villainies.
Deaths in prison are startlingly common. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 34 deaths in prison, and five deaths in police custody. And the figures may be higher: it is hardly unheard of for the state to fudge the figures and pretend that this all happened elsewhere, to twist the truth so far that it becomes a lie.
And let us not forget the numerous failings of the state to care for people with mental and physical health problems. With their ATOS assessments and their bedroom taxes, with their attempts to cut the things which people need to stay alive, there have been deaths. There will be more.
This man was in prison due to a bloodthirsty crackdown from the state. They wanted to reassert their authority after the riots, pretend that justice was being done to assuage the fears of a mob which may have never existed at all. The media and the state colluded to whip up a panic about lawlessness and a hunger for revenge, when in fact this man had merely stolen a gingerbread man. He should have never been in prison in the first place.
And in fact, the whole institution of prison is merely a violence enacted by the state. You may attempt to justify it by crying out about the rapists and the paedophiles and the murderers, but remember that here you are braying in chorus with the foul bastards who would throw anyone they do not like into a hole to die, using your fears to protect their modesty. And if prison is your only solution, you lack imagination in devising new means for restorative justice–or new means for vengeance.
And why should we let these state murderers be the gatekeepers to justice? It is even, now, a crime to say that they have blood on their hands, with the judge–a cog in this vast machine of violence–saying “I can think of nothing more alarming than the statement that ‘Cameron has blood on his hands.” What about the fact that he does have blood on his hands? What about the fact that so do judges, and politicians, and police, and the state-sanctioned contractors who enact violence on behalf of this vicious state?
Do not justify it by saying there is nothing better. Think of things which are better.
And we shall grind all their prisons to dust, build a bonfire of their symbols of power, and we shall burn their machinery piece by piece. They cannot continue to murder with impunity. From the ashes, something new will rise. Something beautiful.