Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Decade Part 3

Due to the false allegation, I had been robbed of almost 2 years. That delay also cost me my then partner, who decided that having waited 2 years was enough for any sane woman and dumped me. It still niggles me that, as we can only phone out and not receive calls; I had to pay the bill for the call in which I was dumped. Humph!

This was a massive emotional blow, one that robbed me of a potential future. I was really shaken and I left for Open prison at the end of 2005 in a very demoralised state. Nevertheless, I was determined to give it my best shot. I arrived with a plan that encompassed my education, housing on release, and job training. All of which were dismissed out of hand within weeks of arriving, by a management who shared the standard prison service view of a con with ambitions - know your place, scumbag.

A year later, the end of 2006, saw me being expelled from Open and dumped here. As is the way with these things, I was referred back to the Parole Board so that they could give their advice as to whether I was still Open prison material.

As is my wont, I parked myself in the Education Department here. This is my natural home, as opposed to some workshop which offers dull, repetitive and unskilled work. I came across a distance learning course on conflict management in the business environment, which seemed to offer a chance to commercialise what I'd learned in the course of my MA. I had the funds to pay for it and only needed the head of education to sign off on it. She refused. I appealed to the Governor, who obviously supported his underling. Baffled and mildly outraged, I sent my appeal off to the Ombudsman. He declined to uphold my complaint on the basis that education isn't a right. True; but if it is offered (and it is explicitly encouraged under the Rules) then it should be managed rationally. Three years on and I still have no idea why I was refused the opportunity to undertake this course.

This left me pottering about the Education Department with not much at all to do. Prison education focuses upon basic skills; anything above functional literacy and numeracy is not counted under Key Performance Targets and so neglected.
Such are the winds of fortune, that a Bad Man did a Very Bad Thing as the parole hearing approached. A lifer, Anthony Rice, who began his sentence as a rapist, was released and promptly committed a murder. The report into the handling of his case savaged all involved, including the Parole Board.

And so I sidled into a room to face a parole panel that was very much in the spotlight and had adopted an extremely defensive and conservative view. The Chair of the panel even mentioned the political atmosphere. So whilst I had hoped to be assessed and judged on my merits as an individual, I was being squeezed through a process that had become highly sensitive to the Daily Mail.

The Parole Board’s answer, delivered a week later, comprised six pages of abuse and concluded that I may be a psychopath. This was stunning. Five previous parole boards had recommended me for Open prison, none had ever raised the spectre of psychopathy and I had been returned from Open for disagreeing with management. Inept, maybe, impolitic definitely, but to have myself transformed from a pretty harmless pain in the arse into a raving loon was a huge shock. It merely reinforced the capricious nature of the Lifer’s existence, with reality being constantly reinterpreted in the light of social, political and media agendas that have nothing to do with us.


  1. After reading this, your latest blog Ben, I was shocked at what they have done with you! One other shocking bit of info, which has just passed the media's way, is the recent trial involving those two boys, who tortured those two others, up near Doncaster.

    There is really no comparison to your passed deeds, and the Yorkshire events, as they do not truly compare. You did not torture your victim like they did to theirs. I feel your deed was momentary anger. Theirs was a purposeful, wanton, deliberate, and premeditated act.

    My newspaper, The Independent, went into great detail with the events that happened in Yorkshire, along with various mind experts opinions. These peoples mindsets, were harping on about the whys, and wherefores of the events that took place. I could see, just how they think, and how their minds operate. Let any human become a, so called expert on one subject, or as I call it, 'pigeon-hole', you then have a self made human mind that is useless at basically everything else.

    Your problems, Ben, are the same pigeon-hole-like minds, in charge of Prisons, Ministry's, and the Government. Reading those articles, I could see what they have done with you, Ben. Over time, they have listed you as a psychopath! It is their easy way out, Ben. Although, not. How many times has Straw made errors? Judges errors? Prison errors? Blair errors? Brown errors? Most are not fit for purpose!

    This needs to be sorted, Ben. Have they classified you as a psychopath, or not? I think an error has occurred, brought about by some vindictive moron, in a high place, you mark my words!

  2. enjoying your writing very much. please keep it up.

  3. OK, Ben, a bit of devil’s advocacy here if no one from the parole side of things will say something, even under the safe moniker of Anonymous.

    That there isn’t enough intelligence in the system to distinguish between an intelligent, principled person and a malignantly obdurate one is the truth and it is deplorable. You’d stand a much better chance of getting out if you were one of those genial, deferential burnouts, too institutionalised to cope with the great outside, but eventually pushed out anyway.

    But I remember being told something by a very experienced and tough-minded teacher who, over weeks, spent a lot of time with an offender on remand whose alleged crimes were horrific. Won over by his modesty, charm, kindness and intelligence, she told him that she couldn’t believe he could possibly have done the things he was accused of. He told her firmly and gently that he had done them, that he was in the right place, and that should never be let out.

    The fact is that some, just some, of the nicest-seeming people in the world get let out and do it again. It plays to the mindless malignity of the Daily Mail, yes. Righteous indignation sells a lot of papers. But it’s also true to say that it’s a delicate and damned difficult judgement a parole board has to make.

    To bring this back to you, I don’t know the best way forward; I don’t know enough. But I hope one of your readers will be able to suggest practical steps. Expressions of sympathy are all very well, but they’re not enough to see you emerge blinking into the daylight of freedom, a prison service rubbish bag of personal possessions slung over your shoulder. And that’s the point.

  4. I recall that I was deemed to be a psychopath at the outset. At one stage I gave the psychopathy check list to a tutor, who then asked his class at university to take the test. All 22 registered as psychopaths! In open prison it was decided to subject me to a barrage of tests, I passed with flying colours. After 23 years it was announced that I was not a psychopath! Just one question: why did they treat me for so long on the basis of a false diagnosis?