‘Down with patriarchy: On the social, racist & patriarchal problems faced by women in prison’ – Letter from imprisoned anarchist comrade (Germany)

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Below we publish a letter from our anarchist comrade who is locked up in a German prison, in Köln, since several months. She is accused of carrying out a bank robbery in Aachen and is already facing the trial. She wrote this letter in the context of the 8th of March, International Day of Women’s Struggle.

Down with patriarchy: On the social, racist & patriarchal problems faced by women in prison 

It is generally well known that German society is rife with inequality. The upper classes are secure and cared for, they have no existential concerns and, despite all the wider problems of the world, they are able to offer their children a promising future which is not available to the under classes. Whilst a small minority of people are able to get richer, the majority are left to exist on the bare minimum, working for a shitty low wage and constantly being pushed towards pointless consumption so that the profit driven system that we live in can continue to function. 

While some sun themselves on their extravagantly expensive yachts in the Mediterranean, or get flown around the globe in their private jets, many cannot afford to go on holiday once in their lives, or to pay their rent or electricity bill or to buy a couple of new teeth. While the super-rich save their abundant wealth from taxes by securing it in off-shore tax havens or mailbox companies, for which they never face any serious judicial proceedings, the poor are doing months or years in prison for fines or petty crimes- for sums of money that the rich spend in minutes on a daily basis.

The state and the media promote the idea that every child is born into a world of equal opportunity, but every child knows that those who are rich and powerful don’t end up in prison because they are able to afford an expensive, good lawyer. Those who have a bad lawyer or, due to social or racist reasons, are perceived as one of the ‘usual suspects’ are simply dealt a bad hand. Those who aren’t able to use the German language or who aren’t able to read or write have practically no chances of being defended and are constantly dependent on the help of others which is often not available. Society doesn’t care about any of this. As per usual an image of the enemy is created around the idea of the criminal foreigner, the Arabic and north African terrorist and the dangerous refugee who should all be either locked up or deported as quickly as possible. Germany likes to promote itself as a country that is open to the world and that takes in refugees but this is only the case when they either successfully integrate into the work system so that they can be profited from, or when they allow themselves to be labelled as victims. When, however, they come to Germany as families or in their so called ‘gangs’ logically hoping to find a better way to survive in a richer country where people have more than they do, then they are not only locked up or deported but are also made an example of and used to justify xenophobic politics. For the state this is all about the protection of the rich and their property. Those who reject this notion of ownership will be punished hardest. Prisons are filled with so called burglars, fraudsters, robbers and thieves, not with murderers and rapists as is so often presented. And of course the quota of foreigners is very high but not because foreigners are more criminal than Germans are but because in general they belong to the under-classes. In a land of immigrants like Germany this was always the case and this is how it will stay.

There is another point that must be mentioned here that perhaps even surpasses the already stated inequalities and structural oppressions: patriarchal violence. And that affects the women in prison even more. Women make up a tiny percentage of the prison population. As a whole and for this reason their needs are hardly considered. The health, medical and hygiene related options available to women in prisons or women’s facilities are shockingly bad. There are fundamentally more activities, sports options and educational or training options for men than for women. Most women come directly from situations of domestic or sexual violence, often they will have been forced into stealing or shop lifting by their husbands or fathers or are imprisoned because they have defended themselves against their tormentor. If women take part in criminal activity the state and society scandalises them on a sexual level especially if the women take on roles that normally men fulfill. Aside from this the state even now maintains its hold on and decisive power over women’s bodies and, when necessary, holds them criminally responsible if they refuse to give their bodies up to authority. Nothing has really changed since the middle ages, it is simply the case that instead of women being burnt at the state they now end up in prison.
While men are often visited by their wives in prison, the reverse is much more rare. Often the husbands of women in prison are also incarcerated themselves, on the run, or do not take care of them. In addition almost all women in prison have children on the outside and therefore the problem of who is able to look after them. So women are forced to look after their families and to keep them together from inside prison despite it being enormously difficult to organise. In the best case the women still have contact to their own mother. Finally, in almost all cultures women in prison are frowned upon and scorned at, and even more so if they are suspected of having been violent as any act of self-empowerment rejects the classical role of women. In this way it can been seen how patriarchal state structures and the law work together with family power dynamics towards the complete domination and oppression of women.
And despite this crushing reality small initiatives of self-determination and self-organisation between women in prison continue to exist. It is perhaps the case that empathy is stronger than between men, in certain situations people will sometimes help each other and show solidarity with those who are weaker or less privileged or rebellious. Each example of such behaviour and gestures, although so small, is vital to each individual in prison but also as a sign against oppression and the structures of repression.

The struggle continues- until all prisons are destroyed!
For total liberation from all social, racist and patriarchal power structures.

Strength, rage and rebellion for all those in struggle!
Freedom for everyone!

January 2017

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