Named after William Wilberforce, who grew up here in Hull and eventually represented the constituency in parliament, I couldn’t help but stop off here. I often hear other prisoners comparing prison workshops to slave labour and I have to admit, it isn’t far off it (given that you can be forced to work against your will and punished if you refuse to). But it does not compare to slavery proper.
Wilberforce campaigned for an end to slavery for decades and, in 1807, succeeded in getting a bill prohibiting the transport of slaves in British ships through parliament. However, it was not until he was on his death bed in 1833 that a bill went through to free all slaves in the British colonies and, one might argue, slavery persisted even on British shores long after his death.
Just recently there has been a lot more political and media attention given to modern slavery, and it seems that even I the twenty-first century there are many brought to Britain for no reason other than to be sold and traded as slaves. Some will have to work on production lines or in fields. Some will be forced to clean and undertake domestic duties, either for a specific family or on a commercial basis. And some will end up working in the sex trade. But no matter what they are made to do, they are not free.
I don’t agree with making prisoners work under threat of punishment, I always thought that we had stopped sentencing people to hard labour. But it is nothing like the kind of slavery that is seen on the outside, even today. It is these faceless, nameless people who are shackled by threats of violence that I really feel sorry for. They have committed no crime.