Monday, 3 December 2012

Blog For Lizzie Don

Yesterday, Deb Madden and myself, Gloria Morrison were privileged to meet Lizzie Donaghue in HMP Send. We went as representatives of JENGbA, it was important to meet her. It was an emotional meeting and her mum Marion was there also, but I’ve been corresponding with Lizzie for some time now and she has become an integral part of JENGbA’s understanding of the flaws and framework which allows miscarriages of justice to happen.

Before JENGbA was formed in 2010, London Against Injustice (LAI) was the group where Marion found us, looking for support and help for her daughter Lizzie who had been convicted of her husband’s murder via conspiracy and was given a 30 year sentence.  Marion was in her late sixties at the time of her daughter’s conviction, and traumatised by what had happened to her family, but so certain of her daughter’s innocence she simply could not understand how she had been so let down by the Justice system.
Marion Donaghue & Gerry Conlon at TUC Conference
I have visited many men and women in prison since we started our campaign and once again I wonder what prisons are actually for.  I see these women with children, and when reunited with them seem so loving and desperately close.  

A little boy arrived with his sister and his Grandmother, and in the car park he was crying desperately trying to push her out of the visitors’ centre, yet once he saw his mum he ran into her arms screaming with delight. When it was time to leave he was clinging to his young mum so hard it took all his grandma’s strength to prise him away from her.  In the toilets his little sister was crying uncontrollably. But it is not just traumatised children that make me wonder this, does it really make sense to lock a human being into a system that is constantly being proven does not work, at a cost to the tax payer of a minimum of £50,000 a year?

Lizzie has 3 children, who were teenagers when she went to prison 8 years ago.  She is now a grandmother of 3 and one of the most beautiful and brave women I have met in a long time. She has set up ICE (Innocent Connection Enterprise) herself with the help of Inside Time. The idea is that prisoners maintaining innocence can find other prisoners inside to communicate with via letters.  This will be contentious.  The prison system does not want to accept there are innocent people in prison.  JENGbA knows this as we asked several prison governors could we have representatives on the wing to signpost the campaign to other prisoners convicted under JE.  The responses were the same.  We do not recognise your business? Simples we are not a business –we are a force for justice.

Lizzie is another excellent example of why JENGbA exists.  Her mother knew something was profoundly wrong about her conviction, and as she told her story we recognised the same path used by police and CPS to get an innocent person convicted. The ‘framing’  of how a crime happened in court, though it bears no reality to what actually happened in reality and with all the  weight of the Crown against you, you become a mere statistic and perhaps another round in the pub for our brave prosecuters who have ‘won’.

Then once convicted all the resources to keep you in prison are weighted against you. But this mother, grandma and great grandmother, Marion’s conviction and determination to fight for her daughter’s freedom mirrors every mother, father and child in JENGbA. That cannot be bottled, quantified or changed – we will succeed because love means we have no choice.

Anyone who watched ‘I’m a celebrity get me outta here’ and saw how Charlie’s daughter gripped on to her after 3 weeks separation should go into prison and see all the children whose lives are being destroyed by the prison system. Innocent people whose freedom, liberty and choices have been taken away from them. In fact JENGbA has over 350 prisoners now that we are supporting. Many of them fathers and women with children, heartbreakingly many are children themselves, serving life sentences.  If the public and MPs genuinely want to see and learn about prison conditions and wrongful convictions why don’t they visit our inside campaigners.  Not as a politician but as human beings who will easily recognise we have one of the most disgraceful prison systems in Europe. 

Our prisons are business and the people in there nothing more than cattle.  It is a disgrace that must be exposed as long as it costs so much money to get people into a system that enables others to profit from human misery.