Monday, October 18, 2010

Parole Dilemma

I have my long overdue parole board hearing on November llth. The three options before the board are: to leave me in closed conditions; to recommend I be move to open prison; or to order my release.

I have to decide precisely what I am going to pitch for and it's not as simple as it sounds. Obviously, I'm not going to ask to remain in closed conditions. It will be a pitch for open or release.

Everybody - staff - recommends a move to Open, although we don't yet know the Secretary of State's official View. Traditionally, this has been to leave me in closed and, equally traditionally, the parole board ignores that view. So, a move to open is the most likely result. Not a foregone conclusion by any means but as the most widely supported option then the one I should perhaps focus my efforts on achieving.

Release is more complicated. No one supports it. Not because I'm a raving loon but out of two factors. Firstly, institutional and professional inertia. It is traditional that Lifers spend a period in open prison prior to release, and staff rarely recommend skipping that stage. It's just not done. Secondly, and more personally, everybody professes to be uncertain as to how I will cope on release and so a period in open would aid this assessment. I've been in prison so long that keeping me in a bit longer is the solution...that argument has never sat well with me!

You may be wondering why I don't just blaze away for release, while accepting open as a consolation prize? Because the parole board can be a temperamental bunch, that's why! If I take up a couple of hours pitching for release, they may see me as being wildly optimistic, wasting their time...and as a result not even give me open. I could write their opinion now - "Mr Gunn demonstrates an unrealistic attitude to his transition into the community. Until he accepts his limitations, then the Panel feel unable to progress him at this point." Seriously, a mistimed pitch for release - even though I'm legally entitled to ask -could be twisted around and used to argue that I'm not ready yet. Thank god for Kafka, or I would be bereft of a word to describe this insanity I'm trapped within.


  1. Ben, there's a deficit crisis out here. They want you out as soon as they decently can, we can no longer afford you. You probably need a bit of Open to get up to speed and get your head round the whirling world. The authorities need to be seen to be going through the motions. See it as convalescence. Don't underestimate its value. This is Kafka-lite at worst. In my v humble.

  2. You will probably benefit from a spell in open conditions - I am with someone who only spent 4 years inside and it is difficult making the transition - so here's hoping you get open conditions. We will all be rooting for you and making a BIG todo if you don't get it. Charles is right - you are costing too much anyway - I wait for Nov. 11th with excitment. Keep calm and strong please.

  3. Ben a member of your family said that you ruin your chances of being released every time you have the opportunity. Do you think you will do so again?

  4. anon, i recall that, a spat on fb. Dont recall any evidence or specifics being put up to substantiate that claim tho.

  5. Is asking for release but acknowledging the difficulty of that and stating you would gladly take a move to open conditions if it is not possible an acceptable answer? That way you acknowledge the reality of your situation and shouldn't appear unrealistic without sacrificing your right to shoot for the best possible outcome.

    FIngers and toes crossed for Nov 11th.

  6. Anonymous,

    Your imply strongly that you believe that Ben has ruined his chances of release in the past and, in doing so, you demonstrate that you are one of the people who come by here every so often to read and understand nothing, leave their unoriginal and uninsightful opinion and then disappear again, as unchanged by their experience as we are by their uninformed opinion.

    Ben's original response to that accusation can be found here:

    There is not much doubt that Ben's actions have, on occasion, resulted in him being kept inside longer than he would have been had he toed the line, but to take from that the conclusion that he must want to stay inside and is suffering from institutionalisation is a simplistic and naive application of amateur psychology.

  7. If pitching for open is the smart thing to do, given your understanding of how their minds work then go for that. I'll keep everything crossed for you :)

  8. Wigarse, it is not as simple as pitching for release and accepting open conditions as an alternative.

    The Parole Board's job is to prevent the release of prisoners who pose a risk to the public. Therefore, you can expect them to take a starting point that they will not release or recommend a release to open conditions unless they can be sure that there is no risk to the public.

    Ben is right that you do need to pitch it at the correct level. They are very unlikely to release a lifer who has not successfully spent some time in open conditions, although it is within their power to do so.

    Appearing before a parole board is like any type of advocacy, you need to persuade the panel to do what you want them to do. One of the most effective ways of alienating a panel is by asking for something wholly unreasonable because the unreasonable argument undermines the good argument and the credability of the person making the argument. It used to be said that if you have 1 good argument and 9 bad ones then you should be putting forward only the 1 good argument and nothing else.

    Ben will, I've no doubt speak with his lawyers and together they can work out the best way forward for him.

    Good luck.

  9. Ben, Good luck for the 11th, I'm keeping you in my thoughts and prayers

  10. Ben, Good luck for the 11th, I'm keeping you in my thoughts and prayers

  11. Ben, I have just added Nov 11 to my computer's calendar app so I don't forget to think of you then. Very best of luck and keep your powder dry.