Letter: Harsh life for republican prisoners

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The Independent Online
Sir: Paddy Seligman's letter of 13 September will have increased public concern about prison security in the wake of the recent escape from Whitemoor prison.

Unfortunately, her reference to 'excessive privileges' paints a picture of life in a special secure unit which masks the reality. SSUs provide a very restricted setting in which prisoners often remain confined for many years. Such prisoners have much less space than others and are restricted to the company of a very small group of fellow prisoners. Intense long-term surveillance erodes their sense of identity and destroys any sense of privacy.

This unnatural environment can have serious long-term effects on the psychological and physical health of inmates - for example, many complain that their eyesight deteriorates markedly because they are deprived of any chance to exercise their capacity for long vision. Any measures which ameliorate a near-intolerable regime can hardly be described as excessive.

It would be unfortunate if the aftermath of this escape resulted in an even more inhumane regime at SSUs, both for the prisoners who endure it, and for their families, who must witness the long-term effects on their relatives.

Yours faithfully,



British Irish Rights Watch

London, SW17

13 September