Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Intriguing, Frustrating World of being a Campaigner for JENGbA

I had a call last week from my Ken, and he told me something really interesting.  He had not called in a while so I had been worried that he was very down; he has served ten years for joint enterprise murder and though coping well in the prison system I know he just wants to come home, like all the JE inside campaigners. JENGbA’s Birmingham co-ordinator Tim Caines (an innocent man who served 16 years joint enterprise murder “with an unknown” as the victim was killed by a white man and Tim is black) told me that after several years in prison no matter how much you fight your wrongful conviction there comes a point when, for mental self-preservation, you just have to get on with it.

Ken told me his HMP have educational days for students of criminology and law from Universities where they are brought into the prison wings.  However the students do not know what position people hold within the jail.  Ken is extremely bright and also in his words ‘very regimented’ and so he often plays the role of a prison officer.  After 2 hours of showing the students the prison conditions and life behind cells they then reveal who they really are.  Ken told me that all the students couldn’t believe he was a Prisoner, worse than that, a convicted murderer.  Many are visibly moved and one woman wanted to hug him but he is not allowed a hug.   When he goes on to explain his conviction and joint enterprise he says that none of them, even though they may be going into a legal profession have heard about the doctrine and how it is currently being used.

The next day I received a call from a lovely grandma, Kathleen Baptiste who I have not met but have spoken to many times.  She and her niece are the only family supporting her grandson Sebastian, and because she is waiting for an operation she is too poorly to travel to HMP Gartree to visit and she was very worried because she said he is feeling very low.  Sebastian like Ken was a young black Londoner who is in a prison in the north of England, so much for keeping families connected to help rehabilitation. I have said we will visit in the New Year.

The aunty of Jamal Parchment who called the day after asking if we could visit her nephew in Ashworth.  Jamal sent us his artwork years ago and it is wonderful, but the toils of being a beautiful artist and being innocently convicted have given him mental health challenges.  I promised her that we would visit him but it is another maze of the prison system to get into a High Security Hospital.  But and this is the beautiful bit, when Jamal was refused permission by the hospital for us  to visit – he complained, first to his social worker who said we weren’t family (In Ashworth you have to be a family member or a supporting organisation)  he complained to his doctor who agreed we should be able to visit.  His aunt said it’s the first time in years she has seen him fight about his situation and so she was grateful that because of JENGbA he was not giving up.

And then the heart breaking news a few weeks ago that Blue Williams mum, Tara had killed herself because she couldn’t cope with her only son’s wrongful conviction.  His grandma Sue contacted us and asked that we attend in our JENGbA tops.  There was only a few of the JENGbA campaigners able to make it but a photo journalist had been to our meetings as she is so perplexed by joint enterprise – she asked could she come to the funeral and Sue readily agreed.  The funeral was one of the most moving I have ever attended. Blue was brought in handcuffed to a PO who, to be fair, was as respectful  as he could be in such awful circumstances. Sue said that Tara just felt let down every avenue she turned to in her fight for justice for her son.  She had given one lawyer a huge amount of money only for him to go bankrupt shortly after.  Depression is a terrible illness and one that affects many of the Inside and Outside JENGbA Campaigners which is why we must support each other – this is what Sue wants to do.  She said Tara wanted to fight by herself but kept hitting obstacles, she is now going to take up that fight alongside JENGbA and Blue is grateful, which is why they both agreed to the photojournalist being there.  The public need to see man’s inhumanity to man when a young man has to be shackled to attend his mum’s funeral.

A couple of days before Xmas, Roberto Parchment’s mum came to my flat to upload a song she had made for all the JENGbA supporters on to You Tube.  Neither of us knew anything about this technical feat so we needed IT support (my teenage son Dan) to do it for us.  The song “I raised my praise” is really moving, please give it a listen.

So our JENGbA family needs to keep growing in strength and commitment and let us all put shed loads of love out there to the brave and vulnerable ones fighting for their freedom.

And that is my message for the New Year – we fight out here together so Blue, Ken, Sebastian and Jamal and all our other Inside Campaigners do not ever think they are alone or that their HOPE for justice was ever in vain.
In solidarity

Gloria Morrison  JENGbA Campaign Co-ordinator