Maghaberry POW's wish to draw public attention to our concerns regarding future conditions at the gaol. Following recent protests the prison authorities agreed reluctantly for a Republican Wing set apart from those occupied by criminals and pro-British paramilitaries. This decision was made in line with the government sponsored Steele Report. Subsequently the `Northern Ireland Prison Service' has announced its intentions to launch a new regime for the Republican Wing entitled ``Compact for Separated Prisoners''.
Bearing in mind the tendency of the British authorities to act in bad faith when dealing with Republican prison protests, the POW's felt the need to look upon the proposed regime with caution. On closer inspection it appears our concerns were well-founded. At the heart of the compact document lies the prison authorities intention to deny normal everyday activities such as education, recreation, exercise, regular association, canteen facilities and even religious practice to prisoners on Republican wings. The denial of these rights is to be accompanied by daily cell and full body searches. It is our opinion that these proposals amount to no less than punitive sanctions against those Republicans who choose to live in safety on their own wing.
Of equal concern is the prison service intention to enforce upon Republican prisoners a rehabilitation scheme under the title ``The Home-Leave Resettlement Boards'' as a pre-condition to successful parole applications.
The system will require prisoners to undergo formal risk assessment which will rely upon input from the PSNI, Probation service and clinical psychologists and will look for evidence that the prisoner has been ``addressing his offending behaviour while in gaol''. This programme is mandatory for criminals and sex offenders and to impose it on Republicans is no less than a calculated insult to political prisoners who know full well they do not need to be rehabilitated from anything.
In keeping with our integrity as Irish Republicans, the well-being of future POW's, not to mention the sacrifices of past POW's on our behalf, we reject the ``Compact for Separated Prisoners'' document.
Our men have been instructed not to sign any document in relation to it. The onus will now be on the prison service to produce arrangements which will not attempt to criminalise us by the back door, the intention of the compact proposal.
Any such attempt will as always be resisted.