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Campaign to get women into building jobs on revamp of Holloway prison site

Suggestion ex-inmates could be given construction roles in creation of women’s centre

25 October, 2019 — By Jane Clinton

Sisters Uncut activists occupied the jail site during negotiations over what should happen to it

CAMPAIGNERS are calling for the planned women’s centre on the old Holloway Prison site to be built exclusively by women and ex-prisoners.

The prison was bought by the Peabody Trust from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) earlier this year,

As well as 1,000 homes, 60 per cent of which are to be affordable housing, the 10-acre site in Camden Road will also include a new women’s building.

Professor Linda Clarke, who works at the University of Westminster and is on the working group for Planning and Architecture at the Community Plan for Holloway (CP4H), said: “This building should be built exclusively by women and should include ex-prisoners.”

She added more generally: “I would like to see women constituting 30 per cent of the construction workforce as a whole and at least 50 per cent of trainees on the building of the women’s building.

Kath Moore, managing director of Women into Construction

“Women into Construction and Woman and Manual Trades are keen to get involved.”

The working group also want the site to be net zero energy and to offer training for low-energy construction.

Kath Moore, managing director of Women into Construction, a not-for-profit organisation which supports women who want to work in the construction industry and contractors who want to support gender diversity, is in favour of the suggestion.

“There are some practical things that would need to be ironed out, but in principal we absolutely support this idea,” she said.

Last week the north London branch of feminist group Sisters Uncut plastered posters with their demands on the prison site’s perimeter.

It called on the Peabody Trust to cease its involvement with the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (MOPAC) which it says is financing and directing the construction of the site.

The group said the involvement of MOPAC undermines the potential renewal of the space to “redress the harms of the criminal justice system”.

The group wants the site to include 100 per cent social rent and 100 per cent accessible housing and those affected by “state and domestic violence” to be given priority in housing allocation.

Professor Linda Clarke

And it called on the MoJ to guarantee the money from the sale of Holloway will not be used to build more prisons.

The community-run women’s building, the group argues, must be “independent from the criminal justice system” and should be “inclusive of all women (trans and cis), intersex and non-binary people”.

A spokesperson for the Peabody Trust said: “Peabody work with MOPAC as part of our wider work to help tackle domestic abuse and violence against women across London. We are founder members of the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance which MOPAC strongly supports. However, they have not been involved with the funding for the Holloway prison site and have no involvement in the construction and delivery of this development project.

“We are in frequent contact with local community groups and have been discussing employment strategy with them and other groups. Women and ex-prisoners are firmly in our plans for the redevelopment of the prison site.

“In terms of the level of social housing, we have publicly and consistently committed to 60 per cent affordable housing across the site.”

Holloway prison was arguably Britain’s most famous women’s prison and was where suffragettes including Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davison were locked up.

It was also where nightclub hostess Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, was executed after being found guilty of shooting dead her racing car driver boyfriend outside a pub in Hampstead – a famous case now commonly viewed as a miscarriage of justice due to abuse she suffered at the hands of her partner.

Women who have been sentenced to jail terms since Holloway’s closure in 2016 are now sent to Downview or Bronzefield in Surrey, which have been described as “more humane” prisons.

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