Rebekah Wershbale’s speech – HMP Styal 29th January 2022

“Today’s demonstration, this protest, this outright OBJECTION to men in women’s prisons is a subject that resonates with me on a terrible, very personal level.

I’m a former inmate of HMP Styal. This occasion marks the first time I’ve returned to these grounds since I was shipped out in a sweat box 10 years ago. The conditions inside were as bleak then as they are now. Healthcare was not a priority, women were and are terribly unwell, with godawful diets and no good treatment plans. Mental health care is practically nonexistent. We’re talking about a forgotten population of the most achingly vulnerable women that society has left behind. Self harm is endemic, the statistics say that the prevalence is 5 times higher than the rates in men’s prisons – in reality this translates to the fact that the women I knew inside that didn’t self harm were a clear minority.

Many of the inmates are mothers. They miss their babies. You can hear them crying every night after lights out. The fear, pain and despondency they feel is palpable.

There are women as well that feel safer here. They welcome institutionalisation, even under these dire circumstances because their lives have been fraught with and rent asunder by MALE VIOLENCE. From their fathers, friends, strangers, partners and husbands. We know the numbers. 60% – well over half – report experiencing domestic violence. 30% report sexual assault. There is no provision for therapy or meaningful recovery so they make the best of what they have, which up until recently was an exclusively female relatively safe space.

Taking all these tragic factors into account, it should be a scandal that these women – with literally NOTHING to shield them, are now being subjected to men, violent, manipulative, aggressive MEN in the tiny spaces they’re permitted. On top of all the existing grievous harms and insults to their wellbeing. On top of all their anxieties and helplessness, they now have to endure men in their estates. In their cells.

It’s hard to imagine their disquiet at this frankly unthinkable development. Hard to comprehend how they must feel at the prospect of being trapped, with no way out. Locked down by a benign and loving government that just wants to do right by ‘transgender prisoners’ and couldn’t give a shit about the comfort, dignity and PHYSICAL SAFETY of a group of traumatised and marginalised women. Women who’ve already had to survive violent hardships and who are rightly terrified of men are now also terrified to say how they’re being affected.

This is an OUTRAGE. This subject brought me as close to the forefront of campaigning as I could get because I know firsthand, from my own ‘lived experience’ that female prisoners are barely afforded a second consideration in society. We’re pariahs – judged, unemployable and scarred. The women in this prison have vanishingly few advocates, which is precisely why they were among the first to suffer the horrific consequences of the transgender experiment.

This situation is disgusting. Whether it’s a heinous oversight, a sadistic abuse of power or simply cowardice and unwillingness to challenge trans dogma in government, it is a complete travesty. Every last person responsible should feel shame at this abject dereliction of duty.

We’re here to be a voice for the voiceless women and should a resounding NO to this legislation. At all costs and by whatever means necessary, we need to KEEP PRISONS SINGLE SEX.