The following interview was taken by phone with X.X., an inmate in Korydallos Prison’s “hospital”. X.X. said he doesn’t mind if his name gets published – “they can only put me in jail” he said laughing – but, for good reason I prefer not to mention it.
March 1 2014.
Q: Yesterday, February 28, one of your fellow inmates tried to kill himself. Would you like to talk on that?
XX: He didn’t just “try”, he hanged himself in the toilet and we had to break the door to get him out. We got him down, he was in a bad condition, braindead, they gave him CPR and transferred him to a hospital. We don’t know in which hospital he is, the authorities won’t tell us, and they won’t let us know about his condition. We are all shaken by what happened.
Q: Is he taking part in your protest?
XX: Yes, everybody is protesting, even those in isolation.
Q: A few days ago, the DA visited the prison’s director. What happened then?
XX: The DA visited, she met with a committee from us, but our questions were not answered. What we got as an answer was “Yes, we know, but there’s nothing we can do”. When we asked what’s going to happen with the prison leaves, she said “oh, well, what can I say about that” and “you probably don’t get where you are right now”. She also refused to give her name, despite she’s obliged to do so. According to the law, the Prisons Supervising DA has to visit once a week, but she hasn’t been here for months. She only hands out disciplinary punishments. The photos and videos that are published, were taken by a certain inmate here, who voluntarily gave up the equipment, and for that he got disciplinary action.
Q: The Ministry of Justice passed the new law about decongestion in prisons. Do you think something is goint to change with this?
XX: Now, this is good humour! This law is about people who have been punished with up to 10 years and is only about those who have already served ⅖ of their penalty on the day the law is officially published – if you complete ⅖ of your penalty on the next day, you are not under its provisions. And it’s a one-off. Also, convicts for robbery are excluded from this new law, and most of us here are for robberies.
Another important aspect is that the law excludes “terrorist” group. Some of us here, bearing similar ideologies, have been arrested before under the “anti-terror” law and this is included. And, as you know, with the “anti-terror” law anyone could end up in prison. This new decongestion law is only for pre-election buzz. Just to get an idea, in here we are counting with calculators the time we have done to figure out whether we’ll be on ⅖ of our penalties when the law is published.
Q: How many, then, will be freed when the decongestion law is active?
XX: About 40 persons, according to what they tell us. That’s next to nothing, because, according to our info, there are about 170 HIV-positive people in Police Departments’ cells who need special treatment. Those people, according to this new law, can continue to be held in Police Departments. And it’s common knowledge that conditions in PD’s are awful, just like in here. I read in articles that this [the prison’s hospital] is a “warehouse for souls” but it’s not even that. Warehouses are at least tidy, we are in a much worde fate.
Q: Would you like to describe the conditions in the 2nd floor, where you yourself are?
XX: In the 2nd floor we are 55 people. They give us 3kg watered-down chlorine-based cleaning liquid for a whole week, for 55 people and our common spaces. When I’m talking about common spaces, don’t imagine there is any gathering room, we are talking about a 20 sq.m. corridor. Most of us who are HIV-positive, we have multiple infections. I myself have also HCV and a psychiatric disorder. Those illnesses cannot be addressed here.
There are two doctors here, a surgeon and the pathologist who also treats infectious deseases. He treats us, he’s running up and down the whole day, does what he can for us, but [when he asks for the means to do his job] he always runs into closed doors. Thedoctors, the nurses and the service do what they can, but they also risk their own lives. This hospital is a boiling pot right now.
Q: Do you plan to continue the protest? What are your most basic demands?
XX: Our basic demands are changing these conditions, and transferring us to somewhere else. We don’t understand why Golden Dawn members have been imprisoned in a wing of the prison that was initially inteded for us. Now, they have promised that we will be transferred “in a couple of months”, but “a couple of months” in the state’s calendar are not the same as in everyone else’s. The whole list with our 30 demands has been posted on the internet.
We plan on carrying on the hunger strike – we don’t even buy anything from the grocery store. Only those with diabetes are eating, and those with danger of developing AIDS. We are also abstaining from antiretroviral therapy. The only drugs that some patients are taking are psychiatric, and those for well-understood reasons (e.g. withdrawal syndromes, etc).
Our protest continues. We will hold an assembly today (Saturday, March 1) and we well discuss a proposition for organizing a solidarity gathering every week in front of the prison, just like the day before. We need solidarity from everyone, we are children of everyone.
Q: Would you like to add something?
XX: Yes, I’d like to add that what’s going on in here is a reflection of what is going on in Greece. State authorities turn a blind eye and insist on projecting an image of “all is well”. The truth is far from that. The photos published are the very least of what goes on in here. Let me tell you something else, also important: There’s an inmate, now 20 years old – he’s in here since he was 17 – and he shoud be in a prison for minors, to be able to go to school. Another one is 22, he also got here when he was a minor. Another problem are immigrants whose term is over, but they are being held until their deportation, which nobody knows when will happen and they shouldn’t be even here. Another thing is that this hospital does not belong to the national health system, and don’t even know how to call it: ‘health center’, ‘hospital’ or ‘prison’. They don’t know how to call “St. Paul” [the name of the prison hospital], which we playfully say is “St. Peter”.
Q: How do you communicate with the outside world? Like you said earlier, you don’t have anymore access to the internet for your voice to be heard.
XX: It’s not a voice anymore, it’s a scream. Any communication we have is through the Initiative [Initiative for Prisoners’ Rights], we dictate our texts on the phone and they publish them. If we find out that interest from the public goes down, we will proceed to thirst strike. We will step up our actions until our demands are met.
I have to mention that in my floor, we function with direct democracy, there’s no prison hierachy, we all take decisions together. And, right now, I’m not a representative of the wing, but I merely convey what is in our collective conscience.
We are people seeing the sky with stripes, in here. And that’s ugly.