Civil Rights: your rights, my rights, everyone’s rights!
A couple of blogs ago, I mentioned one of my core values as being ‘justice.’ I thought it might be an interesting exercise to look at some of my other core values.
Front and centre are ‘civil rights.’
Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert or civil rights historian; however, prison has allowed me the time and experience to understand the value of this for every individual – and, it has to be available for every individual; despite how uncomfortable this might sit for certain quarters of our population. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter what these dissenters’ opinions are; a prisoner’s civil rights are enshrined in law and cannot be taken away by any act or omission (Raymond v Honey).
What would happen if prisoners’ civil rights were removed? Would it stop there? What group of people would be next on the list? Immigrants? Travellers? People on low-incomes? People on benefits? In their own way, civil rights are a measure of someone’s value as a human being. [They are also a measure of a society’s humanity] Remove their civil rights and you instantly dehumanise that group of people and, by extension, youself and all of society.
Where would your (taken for granted) rights be without the sacrifice of the Tolpuddle Martyrs or the Suffragette movement or, more globally, Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi? I say ‘taken for granted’ not to direct that at you, reader, but all of us, me included.
In some ways, I feel a sense of responsibility to challenge the injustices in prison. Whether I like it or not, I am part of this disenfranchised group of people; many of whom do not have the wherewithall or courage to go toe-totoe with ‘the machine’ and their agents. Whilst I’ve not deluded myself into thinking that I’ve made any real impact on much of anything, I know that some of my small victories have made a positive difference to the lives of others in these places. None of that would be possible without our civil rights.
Be happy, be safe and be kind.
Graham Coutts, 11th May 2020