I went to see Kevan Thakrar with Gloria Morrison at Wakefield prison on Saturday 19th April. The day didn't start too well because as I jumped on to the train to begin my two and a half hour train journey I realised the visiting order which we needed to get into the prison had slipped out of the book I had been reading in the station cafe. The doors shut and I couldn't jump off the train. At which point my knees buckled and I dropped to the floor. A bit dramatic you may think, but I really didn't want to let this young man down. It’s taken years to get a visit, with home visits from the police who interviewed both myself and Gloria before allowing us to see Kev.
I won't go into detail of how many calls I made whilst sitting on the floor of the train but I will mention so many people pulled out all the stops to try and get that VO to me at the other end, so thanks to everyone especially Andrew at Wigan train station.
Needless to say we didn't get the VO but pushed our luck with the prison staff. I had faith they would let us both in though Gloria was less confident, this was Kev Thakrar after all a CAT A prisoner in what is called the Close Supervision Centre. Prison staff get a lot of bad press especially from those who attend visits, it’s always a stressful and emotional time and some prison workers don't always understand this. However, we both have to say on this occasion they couldn't have been more helpful so we thank them for that.
This is kind of where the good stuff ends. And that's because Kev is held in isolation and has been for 5 yrs. It means visits are closed and he is situated in a very different part of the prison than the general population. He's in the type of unit I didn't know existed and once you have seen it I can say it’s a unit that most definitely should NOT exist. I've seen better pens in run down foreign zoos housing animals I don't know the names of on account of them not being cute or popular. After walking through outdoor corridors of what looked like 50 foot fences of hard steel, topped with another five feet of knife like barbed wire we travelled downwards into what appeared to be a basement like building.
Before we entered we heard a voice greeting us but it was impossible to see which window the voice came from on account of a strange mess like covering that blocked out the room inside. I noticed the doors and the stone walls were painted white but there was no real natural light. I later learned that's because the prison in its wisdom deemed the exclusion of natural light a privilege to the poor souls who resided here. I see no other reason for the screening it out not only at the window but via a structure from above that prevents it even reaching the window.
Thick bars prevented me and Glo from greeting Kev with a natural hug, but they did not prevent us from pushing our hands through or from breaking down in tears as we held those hands.
Jan was particularly emotional, to see this beautiful young man being treated so appallingly. I was shocked at the colour of his skin. Kev is mixed race Scottish and Asian but the greyness of his pallor was astonishing. Kev said it was directly down to total lack of sunlight – and pointed to the exercise yard in the CSC which was about 20 feet by 10 and covered like Jan said with this green tarpaulin so that no natural light can come through. This violation alone is tantamount to torture – the human body needs vitamin D. I asked Kev who else was in there and he reeled off 7 other names – the CSC only holds 8 prisoners deemed to be the most dangerous in the country including in Wakefield Charles Bronson, who is violent and has attacked officers and taken them hostage. Guess what, Bronson is allowed more privileges than Kev who defended himself from an attack by officers – WHICH HE WON IN A COURT OF LAW – and is continuously non-violent even though the officers are continuously trying to provoke him particularly when he is praying. Bronson has got a window with curtains that he can open and close, Kev has a window that will not close so his cell is constantly cold. Bronson has a table unlike Kev’s which is bolted to the floor. Bronson is allowed to exercise with the other prisoners in the CSC Kev is only allowed 30 mins on his own. He is also expected to pass all his plastic plates, cup, cutlery and toothbrush through his hatch before they will open his door for these 30mins. Bronson doesn’t. Not that I think Charles Bronson should be in these conditions either –as Jan said animals are treated better.
But as awful as the surroundings were, peering at Kev through bars that forbids any real contact we had a good visit and a laugh – because Kev has a brilliant sense of humour and humanity. He told us more about his case and we had not realised he was convicted using secondary ‘hearsay’. He was not at the scene when three people where horrifically shot. His brother Miran was but he was also being shot at but survived. Kev was 35 miles away yet because Miran called him earlier in the day he received 35 years.
Kev is also very literate and we talked books and him and Jan bonded over a dislike of TV. He said that he has witnessed big hard men being treated like crap by the screws who do not tell them to shove it where the sun don’t shine. Why – because they are too scared of losing their TV the only connection they would have to the outside world. Kev knows there are trying to ‘nut him off’ and the last Prison Psychologist refused to say that his PTSD was a serious mental health issue that needed him to be admitted to Rampton. At least this psych had some morals but what about all those others that succumb to the crap that is the greasy pole of prison promotion and whatever other kickbacks there might be trading on human misery.
Before we headed back to our home towns Jan and I went for a much needed drink and met a local couple. They were out and proud Tories but when we told them about joint enterprise and what we had just witnessed in the CSC they agreed with us that is was wrong. They told us about the Mulberry Bush that was in Wakefield that the prisoners walked around on the exercise yard and hence the nursery rhyme. A prison that was built in the 16th Century and that is still torturing human beings as they would have done then – ‘here we go round the Mulberry bush’ indeed.