Moving beyond the stuckness of the present

Richard Garside
Friday, 5 March 2021

“The ultimate expression of law is not order – it’s prison”

Joe Sim recounted the words of the US activist George Jackson, during the final of five webinars we held last week. The webinars marked the 1990 Strangeways prison protest and the official report into those protests, which was published thirty years ago last week.

We had originally planned to hold a one-day conference on 1 April 2020, thirty years to the day from the start of the 25-day Strangeways prison protest. The coronavirus crisis put paid to our plans and, as the crisis dragged on, we concluded, reluctantly at first, that we would have to hold webinars instead.

I am glad that we did.

While webinars cannot emulate the buzz and shared experience of a good conference, they can reach far more people than the relatively select number likely to attend a conference on prisons. Over 600 people, from across the UK and beyond, registered to attend one or more of the webinars.

Spread over five days, the webinars offered bite-sized discussions of a range of issues: from the state of prisons before, during and after the 1990 Strangeways protest, to some of the current problems in the prison system, and the possibilities of decarceration and abolition.

The videos of all five webinars are available to watch via our website.

From the feedback we received during the webinars and since, a frustration with, and an enthusiasm for, moving beyond the ‘stuckness’ of our current approaches to prisons is clear. As one attendee put it, the webinars were “not just ‘useful’ and informative”, they were “galvanising and inspiring”.

We are still catching our breath from what was a busy and intense week for all those involved in the webinars. When we do so, we hope to work with a range of people, including those who attended the webinars, to build on the energy and enthusiasm the webinars generated, and move beyond the stuckness of the present.