Letter: McAliskey: a special prisoner

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The Independent Online
Sir: I read with dismay your report about my partner, Roisin McAliskey ("Her supporters say her prison conditions are appalling: the truth is a very different story", 15 May).

You appear to have swallowed a piece of misinformation supplied by the Prison Service. Certainly, Roisin is being treated as a special case, because she is a special case.

Roisin is the only woman in Holloway Prison who has not been charged with any offence; she is Holloway's only Category A prisoner; she is the only woman ever to be held in Belmarsh high security prison (and kept in solitary confinement while there); she is the only woman in Holloway prison to be accompanied 24 hours a day by two prison officers, even during family visits (because she is deemed a "security risk"). Most "special" of all, though, is the fact that she is Irish.

Your article suggests that the Prison Service fears that problems during the birth of our baby could create a "propaganda coup for Sinn Fein". I find this personally offensive. I was asked in confidence by the governor of Holloway Prison to treat any arrangements surrounding the birth with discretion - the intention being to avoid a media "circus". I wholeheartedly accepted this and I assumed this discretion would work both ways. I appear to have been mistaken.

If Roisin is receiving more attention than other women in Holloway, that is because she has been treated so intolerably until now. This has led to extensive publicity.

Today [22 May] is the expected birth date of our baby and should be a joyous occasion. However any joy has been marred both by media insensitivity and fears over the Prison Service's attitude surrounding the birth. Throughout this past week Roisin and I have been engaged in a constant struggle to provide Roisin with the necessary items for the birth and the baby. Last Friday I left these in Holloway, but Roisin cannot have access to any of it until she arrives at hospital - for "security" reasons. These dangerous baby-gros and nappies sit in a black bin-liner (she is not allowed a holdall) outside Roisin's cell. Roisin is receiving very "special" treatment indeed, but not in the manner your article implied.

SEN McCOTTER

London E5

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