TDoR 2022 / 2022 / July / 09 / Taylor


9 Jul 2022
Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire (United Kingdom)

Taylor [photo:]

Taylor died by suicide in a women's prison on Saturday 9th July - the day of London's Trans Pride.

He was serving an indeterminate prison sentence and had already been in prison for 14 years of what was originally a 4 year sentence.

While in prison, he had been subjected to repeated institutional transphobia.

On Saturday 9 July – the day of London’s Trans Pride – a trans man named Taylor took his own life at HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire.

Taylor slit his own throat to put an end to an indeterminate prison sentence that had already lasted over 14 years. He was one of the thousands of people still suffering in UK prisons after being given an Indeterminate sentence for Public Protection (IPP). Sadly, Taylor is reportedly the second prisoner to take their own life at Eastwood Park in recent weeks. At least 242 IPP prisoners have died in prison, with at least 72 of them (including Taylor) taking their own lives.

On the evening of 10 July, an angry protest took place outside HMP Eastwood Park. Demonstrators accused the prison of being responsible for Taylor’s death. Loved ones gave speeches outside, and prisoners inside the walls joined in with the chants. One eyewitness said that at one point it seemed like the whole prison was chanting Taylor’s name in unison with the demonstration outside. A statement and call to action written by his close friends claims that, in the months running up to his death, prison officers had beaten Taylor and punished him for kissing another prisoner.

During Taylor’s time in prison, his friends said he had received transphobic abuse from both prisoners and officers. They also said that one officer had deliberately and persistently “deadnamed” Taylor. Moreover, his intimate relationships with women prisoners had been pathologised and discouraged. And he had been deliberately separated from the people that he loved.

The authors of the statement spoke about who Taylor was and what he had been through:

"Taylor was a trans prisoner trapped in the UK prison system for over 14 years. He was an IPP prisoner, who had served 10 years longer in prison than his original sentence. He was a beloved friend to anarchist comrades who met him in prison. He had ACAB [all cops are bastards] on his knuckles and an anti-authoritarian spirit and a deep love for animals. He was a working class ‘old school’ prisoner who knew which side he was on. He hated the system with every ounce of his being."

Taylor’s friends spoke about his organising inside prison with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and against cruel IPP sentences like the one he was serving:

Taylor was one of the first prisoner members of the IWW via the Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee (IWOC) that was founded in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in 2015. He was also active with Smash IPP, contributing to the newsletter and encouraging other IPP prisoners to join the group.

IPP prisoners are given a ‘tariff’ for the crime they’re being sentenced for, but once that tariff is served they are not automatically released. Their freedom is in the hands of the parole board. This makes IPP sentences equivalent to a life sentence, but they have largely been handed out for minor crimes.

Taylor’s friends call the IPP sentence a death sentence:

"It is effectively a life sentence for minor crimes. After huge public pressure, IPP sentences were abolished in 2012, but not retrospectively, which means there are still more than 3500 people in prison with no release date. The uncertainty is a living hell. This sentence led to the UK having one of the highest rates of prisoner suicide in the world. "

One contributor to a recent documentary about IPP prisoners, called Unintended Consequences, said:

"the miserable reality of people on IPP sentences is there’s a very good chance that they will kill themselves. If you’re a prisoner you’re twice as likely to kill yourself as a member of the general population. If you’re an IPP prisoner you’re twice again as likely to kill yourself."

For Taylor, the IPP was a death sentence. He was given 4 years for burglary but served 14 years before he died. The long-term imprisonment with no end-date totally destroyed Taylor’s mental health. He attempted suicide multiple times, including slitting his own throat and taking an overdose that led him to being in a coma twice. It eventually killed him.

In order to secure his release, Taylor had to try and satisfy the parole board. When he failed to do that, his mental health spiralled downwards. And his increasing distress was weaponised against him to keep him locked up. According to Taylor’s friends:

"At each board hearing, new ‘hoops’ can be created that the prisoner will need to then jump through. For example, a prisoner might do everything the Parole Board directs and then two years later at the next hearing, the Parole Board might say “you still need to address X behaviour and therefore do X course.” This leads to a continual process of imprisonment where goal posts are repeatedly moved. The uncertainty, frustration and lack of power leads to prisoner behaviour deteriorating, whether that is increased drug use, self-harm or kicking off in protest."

This behaviour then becomes the justification for their continuing imprisonment, because that person is not ‘safe’ for the community or has not ‘addressed their offending behaviour’. The cycle continues.

Taylor’s friends describe the events that led up to his IPP sentence:

The combination of childhood abuse and gender dysphoria led to drug and alcohol abuse, as well as a long-term pattern of self-harm. Taylor became an addict, and as a working class person with no financial means, “crime” was the only option to sustain his habit. This led Taylor to a very self-destructive life, including many abusive relationships and actions that he deeply regretted. Taylor accessed many mental health services, however, none of them affirmed Taylor’s gender identity or needs and he was repeatedly pathologised, hospitalised and imprisoned.

In the judges’ summing up of his case whereby he was given an IPP sentence, he recognised it was Taylor’s ‘gender issues’ that led to his imprisonment.

Report added: 24 Jul 2022. Last updated: 8 Oct 2022

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