Sunday, April 4, 2010

Big Fish, Small Fish

One of the many things which I will have to adjust to on release is having a radically different status.

Due to my writing, politics and sheer longevity my name is known to many throughout the prison system. Now, thanks to the web, people in very far flung places know who I am. I am one of the loudest, most consistent voices amongst the small community of prisoners who openly speak out in criticism of the prison system.

Status is a fairly nebulous entity in prison, a quality that can have clearly defined characteristics and yet subject to unseen forces.

On some measures, I have some small status. People know that they can knock on my door and ask for help if they are in dispute with the institution. They also know that I can be trusted, in that I operate to Chatham House rules - what is said in my cell, stays in my cell - and dark secrets have been unburdened to me.

Whilst I tend to be the living embodiment of financial disaster, this is mitigated by my not having a history of abrogating debts or obligations. I don't run off and put myself "on protection". This stability has a value more than pounds and pence in the community.

I can be loud, critical and abrasive, refusing to either provoke conflict or wavering in the face of bullying tactics. The length of time I have served also adds a little weight to the pot.

On a personal and political level, then, I am a middle of the road, minor, 'somebody' in this prison society.

Nearly all of the characteristics which afford me status in prison will, on release, not be so much as irrelevant but will actually comprise a negative status.

I will start from being an utter nobody. Then the murderer tag will become evident, prison campaigner risks becoming the dinner party bore, and my abilities to safely negotiate the prison society will be an utter irrelevance.

It will be an interesting time, entering the world without a class label, a middle-class education, and a decidedly libertarian world view. Some people wonder what I will make of the world. I wonder what the world will make of me?


  1. I sincerely hope you gain your freedom to answer those questions very soon. And I hope the answers please you. :)

  2. Don't worry about the outside world ben, it is full of theives, liars and mass murderers and the rest have mental health problems. You will just blend in and nobody will know anything about your history! You might even find out that you are more useful to those you leave behind in prison than whilst you were with them. I am vocal, provocative and challenge any status quo that I don't agree with and it nearly cost me my life, yet nothing will stop me. If it is in your genes, nothing or nobody will stop you from continuing being who you are! Fingers X!

  3. I agree with Florence. Ben - just keep being who you are - do it honestly and fairly and you will flourish out here. There are not enough people who are prepared to share their thoughts and feelings like you do - so keep it up - just don't do anything that gives them an excuse to put you back inside and then we can all benefit from you experiences and life. Thank you.

    Will you continue to write a blog when you get out - as hopefully you will. Keeping fingers crossed and positive thoughts for you.