Support the Bulgarian Prisoners Association

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Letters to the editor

Jock Palfreeman has a heart as big as Phar Lap. After seven years in a Sofia prison in the dysfunctional Bulgarian state on a trumped-up charge of murder, you might reasonably expect that he would be somewhat depressed and introspective.

All avenues of appeal have been exhausted and in a recent interview he said that he was resigned to serving the full 20-year sentence that he so unjustly received. The most recent reports are that he was again assaulted by prison guards last week.

I’ve been corresponding with Jock over the last nine months. In that time he has always been focused on what he can do to improve conditions in Sofia Central Prison. Arbitrary punishment is a common feature of Bulgarian jails, so Palfreeman set up the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association in order to protect the rights of inmates.

Theoretically at least, those incarcerated in Bulgaria have rights of appeal against illegal actions committed by prison guards. But the hurdles are high. About 80% of prisoners are illiterate and almost all of them lack the financial resources necessary to engage lawyers to lodge appeals.

Typically, prisoners are placed in isolation when accused of some minor violation of the rules. In the event of an appeal being lodged and managing to survive being “lost in the system” the punishment has already been carried out before the appeal is heard.

In cases where a judge overturns a punishment order, Bulgarian law provides the “remedy” of being able to sue for compensation. The only catch is that you have to pay a percentage of the financial compensation you are seeking up-front before the case can be heard. Given that many of the victims of administrative violations are destitute immigrants convicted for illegal border crossing, it’s no surprise that such “remedies” are rarely explored.

For the past two years the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association has been attempting to set up a bank account so that it can solicit donations in order to finance appeals. They have had to stump-up fees and provide identity witnesses. The lawyer for the Association then went to eight banks asking for an account to be opened in their name. They all refused.

Now a bank account has finally been established, providing the Prisoners’ Association with the capacity to raise funds. Their aim is to defend 250 prisoners a year in Sofia Central Prison. If we can’t get Palfreeman back to Australia in the near future, the least we can do is help him to help others.

For more information or to send a donation, email:

John Rainford
Woonona, NSW

I will start on the basis that I believe we have never seen true socialism. I believe that for us to see true socialism it needs to happen on a global scale, not in single nations. However, single socialist states are the stepping-stones toward global revolution.

I often have it argued to me that after the revolution sex work will simply disappear. I have been given the following reasons: if people have access to health and education they will not choose sex work; if there is no gender oppression women will not engage in sex work; and sex work is not of social value.

Firstly, the sex industry is incredibly diverse, with workers that have a range of education, from those with basic education to those with tertiary qualifications and/or other trade qualifications. So educated people still choose sex work.

Sex work is not based on gender oppression, but rather occurs within the context of it. For example, sex industry clientele is primarily male, however, there are female clientele, and male workers that cater to them. I believe we would see a more balanced industry if we had gender equality because women would not be shamed for their sexuality and seeking pleasure.

I also believe the low number of female clients is due in part to the stigma attached to paying for a sexual service. If my back hurts, I can go and get a massage, which feels great for me, and for the masseuse probably feels like rubbing someone’s back. This paid-for pleasure is acceptable, if it is not sexual. So why must we shame people for wanting pleasure – and not feeling entitled to it – deciding to remunerate a consenting adult for helping them achieve pleasure?

Many people under capitalism are in industries they either do not like or are indifferent to, the sex industry being no exception. Sex work has extreme social value, which I think is probably hard to comprehend for many who simply see it as dirty and distasteful.

Our clients are part of the community. Some are widowers, some are people with disabilities who don’t have the opportunity to meet someone the traditional way. Some have jobs that require long working hours, limiting time to sustain a relationship. And yes, some are married. I have even had wives book appointments for their husbands. Couples wanting to explore, the list goes on and on.

And post-revolution, people will still want pleasure, and we will all be able to contribute to the world in the ways that we wish, and I will continue to contribute to society as a purveyor of fun and pleasure!

Rebecca Davies
Perth, WA

From GLW issue 1016