General, People Systems, Society — by Nicole Vosper October 20, 2012
I write this on the train from seeing a close friend of mine, imprisoned in HMP Holloway. A beautiful lifer who I gardened with for the entire 21 months of my own imprisonment in 2009/10. After 5.5 years into her sentence, she is at her lowest point. She has not eaten for 15 days. With the means of suicide taken from her, she says this is the only way she can die. Even with the knowing that she’ll get taken to hospital and administered a drip, she is determined to weaken her body to the point that she will no longer be part of this world. I do not try to talk her out of it, I simply sit in the hall and listen. The minute I tell her what to do, like every other screw in the place, she will close off and the only lifeline of compassion and support she has will be severed. Having listened to suicidal women most of my adult life, including those in prison during my time as a Listener with the Samaritans, I respect self-determination and honour the space to have these conversations about life and death, grief and hope.
Understanding that right doesn’t take away the fact that every piece of my heart feels like it’s breaking. Every cell in my body is filled with the rage at the injustice of her case. But most of what I feel is powerlessness in the face of the prison system. A system that has dominated and caused harm in my life since I was 16 years old. In most other ways I feel a woman of power; a community organiser, grower, permaculture practitioner. I know my sphere of influence and know how to stretch it strategically. There is not much I fear and not much I feel I can’t do if I put my mind to it. But the prison system dwarfs me and it’s time for that to change.Comments (8)