Rebecca Roberts has written about the closure of Holloway prison, drawing on the Alternatives to Holloway pamphlet published in 1972. She writes:
Some 44 years later and prison numbers have rocketed. In the 30 years leading up to 1972, Alternatives to Prison claims that numbers of women in prison hovered between 800 and 1,000. It now sits at around 4,000. When Holloway was rebuilt it was under the guise that it was for the benefit of women in prison – to create a therapeutic environment. The same false promises are being made again. We need to learn from these failures and identify alternative uses for the land and different ways of supporting women in contact with the criminal justice system.
The solutions outlined in Alternatives to Holloway provide a useful reference point for discussions about alternatives. Community-based services, treatment and small custodial units should all be on the table. The prison visitor’s centre at Holloway could be retained as a resource for women subject to criminal justice supervision. This is, however, not enough. We need to resist falling into the trap of recreating and replicating the criminal justice services and systems we are trying to break free from.
There is an opportunity here to be far bolder in our vision and ambitions.
As Angela Y Davis argues in her book Are Prisons Obsolete?, ‘…we would not be looking for prison-like substitutes for the prison…it is about imagining a constellation of alternatives strategies and institutions’. This, she argues, is not just about offering an alternative to punishment or prison that occupies the same footprint in society.
Playgrounds, social housing, treatment centres, health care facilities – these are some of the crucial building blocks of safe and healthy communities. Rather than handed over to private developers, the land at Holloway should be protected and ultimately used for the benefit of the local community.
Click here to read the full article on The Reclaim Justice Network website.