Letter from Em Sheppard 26 December 2015

Please note it is important that this is not reposted after 30 December 2015 as this will be in breach of licencing conditions.

In October my probation officer said I could go back to Bristol. Now it transpires I have been a MAPPA (multi-Agency Protection) for my whole sentence, though no one thought to tell me (I always thought it was strange I wasn’t). The police met in November about me and to draw up my licence conditions, but (as is common practice) have only told me now. The licence is so restrictive that ironically I will have had more freedom in jail in some ways. I’m not sure what’s worse – to refuse to leave prison, or to accept their restrictions! It clearly shows what a farce the much quoted claims of “rehabilitation” and “maintaining family ties” are. I had a place to live and several jobs organised, but instead they make me sign-on and live in a bail hostel in Reading.

Licence conditions are one of many possible examples of how the prison society extends beyond these walls. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore said “Prison is not some building ‘over there’ but a set of relationships that undermine rather than stabilise everyday lives, everywhere”.

Apart from the usual “big 6” licence conditions, I also have: a 7-7 curfew for my entire licence (plus signing several times during the day and ‘group work’ and sessions with probation to address my “attitude”), not using any computers or internet capable devices (and specifically not deleting any browser histories), not going within 100 metres of any police buildings (probation said if I want to report a crime I can but I have to ask permission from them first…?!!?!), not to have more than one mobile phone (possibly not even one at all they are checking on this) and to provide the SIM/IME number, to permanently reside at Elizabeth Fry, not to visit or interact with any prisoners, not to contribute to or publish anything, or attend any meeting/gatherings associated with direct action/activism/campaigning, not to contact directly or indirectly any person whom I know or believe to be involved with “extremist” activities ( I have asked for the legal definition of this), or have been charged with or convicted of an offence. I am also not allowed to work with “vulnerable adults” or “groom” (or have discussions with) anyone for the purposes of radicalisation or extremism.

Once I’m out I’m going to challenge these conditions but my solicitor said it’s hard to do from inside prison. Accepting them goes against everything I believe in but I am going to do so for my family. They are obviously setting me up to fail (most girls at Elizabeth Fry do because drugs are rife there) so we’ll see how long I last. Once I sign the conditions, unless I get recalled, I won’t be able to write again until 2017 :(

They can try to stifle and control me with their restrictions, false sympathies and fake smiles, but “no pueden encarcelar neustras ideas”. My silence is only temporary, and my rage is infinite.

“Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

Just like the moons and like the suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise”

  • Still I’ll rise, Maya Angelou

Thanks for all the support this year. Hope you have a fun and mischievous 2016.

Solidarity, love and lots of rage

Em x :)

Please note it is important that this is not reposted after 30 December 2015 as this will be in breach of licencing conditions.

More on her case here.

Resources for writing to prisoners here.