It was very nearly ‘standing room only’ at the Saturday Forensic Forum on February 20th. Holloway staff past and present and colleagues from other organisations came together to discuss the closure of HMP & YOI Holloway (earmarked for the summer) and the implications of its loss to women prisoners and forensic psychotherapy.
We heard how the announcement of the closure was unexpected and came as a surprise to the staff as well as the inmates and about some of the controversy and confusion over the reasons given for the closure and the ownership of the site.
Chloe, a former resident of the Mother & Baby unit spoke about her experience as an inmate at Holloway. She spoke fondly of the dedication and commitment of the staff team, the trusting relationships that were built with officers and how this became a foundation for her to make good use of the therapeutic interventions, which has allowed to move forward positively with her life, career and her family. As a practitioner it was heart-warming to hear that both the therapy and the institution were valued and had such a positive impact on Chloe and the other women she talked about.
There was also a response from the therapies and women’s services to the closure. Maureen Mansfield from Women in Prison is collating Holloway stories to be compiled in to an online archive. Sabina Amiga and others are considering options to provide ongoing support for women released from prison in the London area. Author Caitlin Davies was also able to inform the group of some of the historical implications of the Holloway site such as the women who were buried there.
The session was organised as an opportunity to mark the closure of the prison but it was clear that there are many committed and passionate professionals who are unwilling to let the history and value of the prison slip away quietly. Saturday Forensic Forum will continue to provide a space to think about the this important building and the people in it and the website will be updated with news of project and events coming out of these discussions.