Scottish Socialist Party MP Rosie Kane was released from Cornton Vale women's prison on November 8 after serving half of a 14-day jail sentence. The sentence was imposed when Kane refused to pay a £300 fine for participating in a 2005 anti-nuclear weapons protest at the Scottish parliament
Prior to being sentenced, Kane told the October 27 Morning Star: "I have no intention of paying this fine while New Labour get off without any penalty for planning to waste billions on nuclear terror weapons, which, if they were ever used, would incinerate millions of innocent men, women, and children."
On her release, Kane was met by fellow SSP MSP Carolyn Leckie, who has also spent time in Cornton Vale. Later, Kane told Green Left Weekly about conditions inside the prison: "Cornton Vale is truly awful. I struggled but I managed and I had a lot of time during my sentence to communicate with the many women in there. Most of them should not be there. It really serves no useful purpose. I was in Bruce wing, which is for new admissions but is also used for punishing women by downgrading them to the unit. So what you have are vulnerable newcomers, some going through detox, along with women who have been sent there from other units because they were bullying — the mixture creates a culture of fear and anger.
"There are no activities in Bruce so you don't get to do anything positive or have time to get to know each other. It's full of suspicion and gossip and most meal times include a fight. You go in with nothing, bar some fags if you can afford them. No shampoo, conditioner, cream or anything that makes you feel good. You have to borrow or bargain with other women. So, you find yourself knocking on a cell door and asking for things. This can end up with you being beholden to others and that's not always a good thing when possessions are so limited.
"The food is awful. These women are already very unhealthy and decent food would help them to recover their health. You get one piece of fruit a day as long as you do not take a dessert — most women want the sweet stuff so they do not take the fruit.
"Bullying is rife because possessions are thin and people are either angry or vulnerable. I was the exception to the rule because I am not drug- or alcohol-dependent and I do not use tranquillizers. The showers have half-doors, as do the toilets, and they are in the corridor. There are many male wardens, so women lose their dignity and privacy. But to be honest, most of the women don't think they have any rights and sadly do not think they are entitled to anything better.
"I did not meet one woman who had not been abused and most had experienced many types of abuse. Many had been in care most of their lives and could not cope with the world.
"It was so cold I had to sleep in two pairs of pyjamas and put other items of clothing on top of my scabby quilt to get more warmth. I kicked up fuck about it and after three days we got better, but not adequate heating.
"One warden had worked at [Glasgow prison] Barlinnie for years and said Cornton Vale was worse than Barlinnie because 'men would not allow stuff like this to happen to them'. One bizarre thing I noticed was that among the 70 or more women on my wing I saw only two women wearing glasses. The women don't read and probably do not have their vision checked … The whole place is a monument to the failure of government."
Despite suffering the jail sentence, Kane is defiant about the protest that landed her in prison. She told the Morning Star: "It is Tony Blair and George Bush who are the real criminals and protests like the one outside the parliament are an entirely legitimate means of highlighting the reality of the weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde."