FALVEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY

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1937
Hunger Strike in British Prisons 1913-1940

1937

There were 32 recorded strikes in 1937, spread over 13 prisons. As the tables below show, all but three of the strikes lasted less than two weeks. Reasons given for strikes were generally complaints about punishment, the prison diet, or the conditions in prison. Nearly three-fourths (22 out of 32 strikes) had no record of force feedings.

There is no evidence of a coordinated group strike in 1937, and few of the strikes particularly stand out. Most were carried out by prisoners convicted of crimes such as burglary or trespassing, and were protesting either their punishment or some condition about life in prison.

The longest strike in 1937 was carried out by William Roberts. Roberts was convicted of burglary and sentenced to 3 years at Manchester. On February 23 he began a 40 day strike to protest being punished without proper cause.

A number of prisoners used hunger strikes to protest perceived mistreatment by prison officials. For example, Hyman Paskin, serving 18 months hard labor and nearly a year of remand in Wandsworth for housebreaking, went on a three day hunger strike in September 1937. His reason for striking was "to draw attention to his complaint of being assaulted after reception from a recent attempt to escape." Officials did not force feed him.  

One curious case from 1937 was that of Patrick James Holley Doyle. While serving a sentence in Manchester for obtaining credit by fraud, he went on a 3 day hunger strike, during which officials force fed him once using an oesophagal tube. Doyle's reason for striking was that "his people" told him to take no food until he met with the magistrate. The record does not indicate who "his people" were, or even if they were real of delusions.   

Duration of Strikes

This table includes all 32 strikes from 1937.

Notable Strikes, 1937

William Roberts

William Roberts

Hyman Paskin

Hyman Paskin

Patrick James Holley Doyle

Patrick James Holley Doyle