Korydallos: the struggle against inhumane conditions and discrimination continues

The female prisoners in Korydallos Prison announce their first act of protest against their unfair transfer to another wing in the prison which will intensify existing problems and create new obstacles.

This transfer will first and foremost compromise the safety of the women, especially those of non-Greek origin, due to the presence of white-supremacist male prisoners in the same wing. The prevalence of this ‘unsafety’ and the urgent need for their ‘protection’ will escalate the punitiveness experienced by women in jail and will legitimize the provocative behaviour of the nazis since they haven’t had to face any disciplinary charges for harrassing/verbally abusing them so far. This protection-turn-to-punshment which will obscure the sunlight from their cells and any visual contact with the outdoors, while it will provide the members of the Golden Dawn with impunity for whatever racist behaviours they express, is not democratic nor it constitutes a reflection of gender equality in any sense.

But, we shall not fail to perceive the importance of the psychological ramifications that this relocation will impose upon female prisoners. It is important to understand that on top of everything the problem of overpopulation -which the ministry has failed to address- will remain unresolved. So, the questions is: how do we expect these women to cope emotionally since this pressure can exarcebate existing psychological problems as well as create new ones? We need to understand the different needs of different categories of prisoners and how vulnerable each category is, according to their specifications. The psychological pain of incarcerated mothers forced to live away from their children, the lack of a support network outside of prison for immigrant women whose families are left behind in other countries, the harrassment and discrimination experienced by the LGBT, the insecurity felt by elder and disabled prisoners, or the search for identity for those in early adulthood, are issues that must be central in rehabilitation and prison policy.

At the same time living in their newly designated space will create conditions similar to solitary confinement for disabled prisoners or those with severe movemet problems, as they will not be able to use the staircase to get to the outdoor space for recreation or have access to the prison hospital for the doctors to run tests and monitor their health. But this government is notorious for ignoring the needs of ill prisoners, as it has previously denied prisoners within the very same penitentiary, access to medical care. Earlier this year, those incarcerated in the prison hospital in Korydallos, including seropositive and terminally ill cancer patients, begun a hunger strike that lasted for 43 days, to protest the limited provision of healthcare in a severely deprived and unhygienic ‘hospital’ and demand more medical tests and vaccinations for all prisoners as well as a clean hospital with the right medical equipment. By the end of the hunger strike, one prisoner committed suicide, while prisoners are still waiting for the government to respond to their demands. In this authoritarian political context, where a government refuses to recognise the human rights of prisoners and especially those suffering from illness, prisoners cannot expect to gain much unless they actively protest. Greek prisoners have repeatedly shown their courage during hunger strikes, which have taken place in various prisons across the country, however the support from those on the outside can be crucial for them to succeed in their struggle.

The violation of female prisoners’ rights in order to preserve the privileges of the male white-supremacist fascists, is an example of the fact that this is not democracy for all. The role of the government and especially the ministry of justice, regarding prison policy, is to safeguard the mental and physical health of prisoners and provide a safe space for rehabilitation. Mr Athanasiou is constantly ignoring the pleas of the prisoners’ committee for a meeting and refuses to engage in a dialogue with them in order to come to a decision that will satisfy both parties. His negligence will cost the mental and physical well being of those he is getting paid to protect and rehabilitate. This gender-based discrimination and simultaneous protectiveness of far-right criminals which is shamelessly exhibited in his political agenda, is not a characteristic of ‘democracy’, so maybe the government nationalists can remember that whenever they get on with the whole ‘cradle of democracy’ myth.

The following letter was written by female prisoners in Korydallos and was published on Athens Indymedia yesterday.

Today, on the 27th of August 2014, us the women prisoners in Korydallos Penitentiary, we realize our first protest and we refure to enter our cells for an entire hour after the prison has shut down at night.

Our demand is to cancel our unfair relocation to the first floor of another wing within prison used exclusively by 6 neo-nazi inmates, which has been scheduled to take place on Saturday, since this is going to affect us disproportionately.

The ministry, is indifferent to preserving our rights for humane living condtions and plans to keep us crammed like mice in cage, on the first floor of a wing which does not comply with the basic requirements for decent living conditions. At the same time, on the ground floor of the same building only the 6 MPs of the fascist Golden Dawn will be detained, despite the fact that its capacity to house one hundred individuals would have provided a fair solution to the issue of overpopulation.

But the rumours we read and heard through the media, that our transfer aims to improve our living conditions, which were shamelessly spread by the Ministry of Justice, are plain lies. This is why we intend to make clear that:
1)At this moment there are 85 female prisoners and by September this number will double due to the transfer of the court house, so the place we are curretly held, will be not be enough for even half of us. This means that some will be forced to sleep on the floor due to lack of space.
2)The wing they planning to move us into, does not have a pay-phone . As if losing our freedom is not enough, we are now forced to stop communicating with our beloved families.
3) The entire yard designated to this wing, will be used by the 6 nazis, so we will be forced to have to walk through the commonly used spaces such as kitchens, in order to get back to the yard of our old wing.
4) There is no hygiene in the new wing, there is even lack of toilet bowls in our bathrooms.
5) The proposal to cover our windows to avoid visual contact with the nazis in order to protect us from abuse, will deprive us of sunlight.
6) Prisoners with disabilities and restricted movement problems will be forced to remain in their cells throughout the entire day as they will not be able to climb up and down the stairs to get to the yard for some fresh air, and they will not be able to be transfered to the prison hospital to receive medical care, tests and medications.

This is taking place at a time where the wing we are currently confined will contine operating since it houses the canteen and the library of the prison, but it will no longer be made available to house prisoners. Against this insanity we demand that the minister Charalambos Athanasiou and the secretary general Marinos Scandamis to end this. We demand that our unfair transfer is cancelled and that we remain where we are currently located. We are going to react to any attempt to get us removed and in case this happens it will only confirm the inequal and discriminative treatment of some prisoners as second class citizens. We are seeking an end to this injustice. This is the second time we ask for representatives of the Ministry of Justice to discuss with the Prison Struggle Committee in order to find a solution that takes into account our fair demands.

Prison Struggle Committee at Korydallos Female Prison

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