A tribute to Pauline Campbell

Pauline Campbell was found dead by her daughter’s grave yesterday. Since spent the last five years campaiging on the deaths of women in prison, after her own 18-year-old daughter died of an overdose at Styal prison. In this guest post, Louise Whittle pays tribute (cross-posted from Harpymarx)

Pauline CampbellPauline Campbell was a loving mother, a generous hearted woman, and a human being of indescribable bravery.” (Frances Crook, Howard League)

I first heard Pauline Campbell speak at a meeting in March 2007 organised by Women in Prison (WIP) regarding the publication of the Corston Review. She spoke eloquently and passionately about her daughter Sarah (who died in Styal Prison in 2003) and the overall treatment of women in prison.

I wrote a piece about her campaigning work highlighting the shocking number of women dying in prison on Socialist Unity blog, and she contacted me.

I eventually got to meet Pauline when I attended Macclesfield Magistrates court with her in March 2008 for a pre-trial review. She had been arrested for the 15th time and for obstruction. I admired Pauline’s boldness and conviction when she stated her case in court. Pauline later wrote: “Events in court today had to be seen to be believed. I have never before felt so dehumanised.” That comment from Pauline summed up my own reactions.The bureaucracy and the utter minefield of the proceedings showed up the lack of compassion and responsiveness of the court.

In early May, the CPS decided afterall to abandon the trial (it was set for late July-early August) due to not being in the public interest. The emotional impact the court case had on her was immeasurable and soul destroying:

“From start to finish, this senseless prosecution was a waste of the court’s time, a scandalous waste of public money, and an enormous drain on my emotional health. Yet another attempt to criminalise and punish me has failed, and the CPS and the Attorney General have met with a barrage of letters complaining about the vindictive nature of the case, demanding to know how the prosecution could be in the public interest (I have seen copies of some of these letters).”

I am glad I met and corresponded with Pauline as she was bold, intelligent, funny and strong. Her energy and tenacity illustrated her defiance and how she was only too willing to speak out against hidden injustices and for the powerless. And her love for Sarah.

As INQUEST says: “Borne out of experience, Pauline became a formidable campaigner committed to exposing the injustices and inhumanity of the treatment of women in prison”.

We can learn so much by her example. I will miss her deeply.

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