Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Crime

One of the criticisms I have of many prison writers is that they avoid any mention of their crime.

One day they are bumbling along through normal existence, the next they are sentenced to life. A few decades pass and a book deal later, and we can still be no wiser as to what they did.

It may be harsh, but I've viewed this as a mixture of cowardice and deceit. Parading oneself out in public and becoming accepted, whilst keeping the crime secret, always makes me uncomfortable, although I do realise that it may be sensible. This is not to say that these prison writers do not make a very valuable contribution to public debate.

I am attempting to avoid that, in that I'm not trying to persuade anyone that I'm a reasonable, fluffy sort of bloke. My aim was to present a murderer as a three dimensional, rounded, person in the hope of challenging stereotypes. You either accept me for who I am, crime included, or you don't. Time will tell how that goes.
And yet, so far, I have avoided sharing the details of my offence. You know that I killed a friend when I was a kid, so the astute reader would have worked out that he was also a kid. Apart from that, what exactly happened remains a mystery. Avid Googlers will have come up empty handed. Because of my age newspapers couldn't mention my name in their reports and so I was relegated to a short piece in a regional paper, after the sheep prices.

Why have I hesitated? It's not because my crime was particularly horrible or deviant, it was a fairly dull murder. I have hesitated partly because murder is, in a strange way, a very private and personal event. There is also my victims' family to consider. As far as I know, they are no longer in the country but the Net means that I must be cautious about throwing the last moments of their brother and son in their face.

There is also a voyeurism afoot. I call this "murder porn", a revelling in the grossest details of crimes and it permeates our culture. TV franchises, novels, true crime revelations, all feed into this base aspect of our collective consciousness. It reaches a peak with films such as Cannibal Holocaust and Hostel - the essence of the plot is the slow, shocking, brutality inflicted on
the participants. The idea of adding to this cannon makes me very uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, some people want to know. For the moment, though, they will have to make do with what I have already said. You know enough to make a broad judgement about me and so I hope you can exercise a little patience on this.


  1. Bullshit! Pull the other one. Sorry Ben, it reminds me of a CV I once read. The gap I saw was like the Grand Canyon. If you want to keep it private that is your business. Mine was also just a brief piece in the local rag, and brief piece on the local TV station. A domestic, which was just a common garden manslaughter. And yet, reams and reams of paper in my prison record as opinions expressed expanded on the brief piece. Then there was the secret police report...

    What puzzled them all was the absence of explanation from myself. The same with you, people are puzzled. Me, I don't care about it, I take you as I find you. Either people offer explanations or they don't.

    Ironically, the McCanns kept saying we cannot go into detail because of the secrecy laws in Portugal. Now that the case has been archived, and they are no longer arguidos, they still don't go into details. Obviously, they have got something to hide. So have I, and so have you. I think most people have somethings they would rather not talk about.

  2. There is a natural curiosity but I can be patient- for now.

  3. JHL - You seem to have a thing about the McCanns. I don't see how it is relevant here and I would have thought someone of your level of experience would have known the risks of condemning without evidence and based on a hunch.

    As for Ben's decision on how to handle this; I think he's doing it exactly right. We know enough to know he isn't hiding the seriousness of his crime or refusing to take responsibility and that is all we need to know. Everything else is between Ben, the victim's family and his conscience and we should stay out.

    It isn't a CV we're talking about, this isn't a hole that needs plugging and, while our curiosity may be natural, that doesn't mean it's right.

  4. I did 18 months in a US prison back in the 90's and I found myself being curious about some of the inmates and their crimes, especially murder. You never asked and they never went into details. A lot of them were appealing so it was best they didn't talk any way.

    Ben is handling it just right and since it was something that happened when he was a child I see no reason why people should want to know anymore. I agree it's one of those private things you don't share with everyone.

  5. A life-defining event is not necessarily a character-defining event. I have to confess to zero curiosity. This is not where you are anchored.

  6. While I am absolutely certain it isn't intentional, do you think that posts like this might be in danger of 'leading-on' the murder-porn enthusiasts?

  7. I think Ben's stance is completely reasonable. He is not shying away from what he did, and allowing the murder porn junkies to pore over every detail would detract from Ben's message on prison reform.

  8. I agree with Charles Cowling and Jackart. I don't think I want to know exactly what happened and that is not important. What is important is the end result, that Ben himself called the police and returned to the scene to await them and is remorseful. If that does not tell you a lot about him, they you are voyeur who will never be satisfied.

    Besides the details of a crime committed many years ago, in the heat of passion, by a juvenile risk colouring our view of Ben as he is know which is much more relevant to understanding why he should or should not be released, or allowed to post or read by us.

  9. The crime must matter in some respect other wise ben wouldnt be in prison and so we wouldnt be reading this blog. That said, i do things most days that i wouldnt really want other people to know and none of my things are 'bad' IE i probs wouldnt go to prision. So if we have things that are fairly minor that we wouldnt want to talk about then it seems perfectly reasonable to me that you dont tell us about the crime it's self. If you do then ill read it but i honestly dont think it would alter my perception of you. :-)

    Christian Sam

  10. well you guys sorry to let you down, but I am very interested very interested in deed as an anthropologist :)

  11. I'm curious too but I imagine it would be traumatic to some degree for Ben to re-live the event in the detail reguired to write a full account. What I don't understand is why it was classed as murder rather than manslaughter, as my understanding is that it was a the result of a fight; not something premeditated. I agree that how Ben is now is the important thing and I just wish that he would be released.

  12. Wigarse: I did respond to your criticisms of me, however, my comment was deleted.

    Charliewhite: See above, I think I hit a raw nerve, I too have studied anthropology.

    My posts do not get deleted on my blog, so I have said my piece there.

  13. Now I'm really confused - I thought Jailhouselawyer was the moderator here!

  14. So is it possible/safe for the actual editor/moderator here to be known to us? I understand it may not be. I would really like to know, however, the criteria used for deleting jailhouselawyer's second comment.

  15. There was a tech glitch that saw jailhouselawyers comment vanish into the ether, and i understand his wrath. There are no criteria for moderating comments here, save gross libel, which saw one comment removed and stated so. The editor remains a private individual but prisonerben makes blog policy. I apologise for any upset or confusion.

  16. Jailhouselawyer, what is it with you and the McCanns?

  17. Ben has posted Prisoner and the Interweb...

    I am serving my sentence in the community and have an on line identity.

    To answer your question, Networld criminal profilers

    I am happy to go on Question Time or Newsnight and be grilled by Paxo (he would give the McCanns a right stuffing).

  18. Thanks for explaining that 'prisonerben'.

  19. I received this in an email...

    "John, it would be helpful if you could make a comment that maybe you didn’t actually send that original comment. You can’t have done because I could not find it anywhere".

    I typed it and entered the word verification, but I did not check to see that it had registered. So, it is possible that it was not sent. And, if this is the case I owe Ben an unreserved apology.

    Accidents can happen. And, recently I posted a comment on a forum and it did not show when I went back to check sometime later. I wondered what happened to that comment too.

    If the error was at my end, it was not as someone thought maybe a result of me being squiffy. I was neither stoned or drunk at the time. But, certainly very tired.

    Thinking about it, I don't have any evidence it got as far as it should. I still have the belief, at least for now, that I sent it. Tony Blair has said that he believes he did the right thing. There are a lot of people who do not believe his belief.

  20. jhl, many thanks for that gracious clarification. We will try to be more tech literate and capable at this end, and apologise for any confusion. Meanwhile, we look forward to you continuing to contribute comments and sharing your views -Editor.