Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Crucial Paragraph.

There are times when I wish I could plaster my paperwork across the web for all to see. Alas, much of it also refers to other people and their role in events in my life and so - for the moment I can only share snippets with you.

Here, then, is the paragraph from my latest Parole Board answer that contains their reasons why I am not ready for release. Enjoy!

"The panel has reviewed your case with care and has reconsidered the whole issue of risk. If you are transferred to open conditions it is overwhelmingly likely that you will continue to be a challenging and difficult inmate to manage. However, the Panel is required to assess the risk you pose of re-offending which would cause serious harm to the public, not whether you are a card-carrying member of the awkward squad. The Panel is wholly un-persuaded that the risk is now so small that you could be safely released at this stage; release is not remotely an option. You have been in prison for many years and your re-integration into the community, if it is ever to take place, must be handled slowly and carefully."

So...I have to spend longer in prison in order to repair the damage that being in prison so long has apparently caused. Get out of that one!


  1. Ben, is this the actual wording? I am shocked and if it is, it is also an absolute disgrace and quite frankly an absolute abuse of power! I know that is stating the obvious but the wording of this is so vindictive it really highlights how every aspect, in minute detail, of your very being is up for exploitation by those who happen to be sat the other side of the table. How you maintain such an existence under such circumstances is beyond me, power to your elbow and if its any conciliation there are lots of people in support of you. Although having just read that, it doesn't feel like that counts for much right now.

  2. Are you supposed to be a happy customer?

    "Release is not remotely an option" - what are you supposed to do with that? Crazy, world.

  3. Anonymous above, they mean immediate release into the community; rightly or wrongly they clearly feel that release is going to be a process for Ben and maybe they have a point.

    "You have been in prison for many years and your re-integration into the community, if it is ever to take place, must be handled slowly and carefully."

    Sorry to not be railing against the system on this one, but it does sound right. They sound willing to help you.

    Your massive over time incarceration is something that you might want to handle as a separate issue, ( a complaint maybe at a later date) if you think you will get a positive outcome from it, otherwise, count your blessings, we all have shortcomings, we all are in dire straights in some way or other, and as always we need to find ways of improving the situation not just for one but for all, and that does mean being realistic about our own individual circumstances, tendencies and history.

    Good Luck Ben.

  4. I had that one way back in 1994, that is, you are institutionalised therefore we need to institutionalise you further to deinstitutionalise you. Circular reasoning.

    Whilst I can understand the A B C D thinking to progress through the system, it loses credibility when C only serves to mark time and a prisoner is many years over tariff.

  5. I think it is unreasonable to expect us to judge the parol board on the basis of this one paragraph. All this paragraph states is;
    -they do not think being an awkward prisoner is reason to detain Ben
    -they do not think it is safe to release him strait from closed to open conditions.

    From the nature of the paragraph it is clear that there is additional information and they have not just pulled this conclusion from thin air. So to actually make a judgement on the validity on the decision we would have to see the evidence that they where presented with, and the comments they made regarding that evidence, and the justifications they provide for reaching that conclusion. It is impossible to damn or praise them on the basis of the conclusion without this additional information.

  6. Yes Tallguy I agree, there is clearly information that the parole board has that have made them come up with and understand this decision in order to make this summary; information that we do not necessarily know or have been made aware of.

    However I still think they are making an attempt to meet Ben half way, judging by their conclusion as stated above; and Ben should do the same.

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  8. Jailhouselawyer, you did manage to get out so it might be useful here to hear about it, particularly overcoming the institutionalising / deinstitutionalising malarkey that is the crossroads that Ben is now at.

  9. The inference of the wording of this report is that the regime has rendered Ben a risk to the public. Grounds for challenge here from everyone in whose name he is imprisoned. Grounds for redress on Ben’s part. If the Prison Service confesses that it is systemically incapable of discharging its duty of rehabilitation it has a duty to tell us what it intends to do about that.

    The language used in this report is entirely without judicious objectivity. What is the definition of ‘awkward squad’ and what is its relevance to Ben’s supposed criminality? Why is it used pejoratively?

    Yes, Tallguy, there is more to this report than Ben has published, agreed, but by these words alone the Prison Service stands condemned. And this is about more than just Ben. Prison does bugger people up, and that’s not what it’s supposed to do.

  10. In this instance, it is about Ben, we are looking at an individual report about Ben.

    What system or line of command does one have in prison to link in with in order to move through, except those laid out i.e the parole board? There is no other body capable of securing release except the organs that are there.

    They (the parole board) may well be worthy of heavy criticism, but there is a time and a place for that and it is not a blanket scenario.

    To progress through the system does not mean dropping criticism of it, it does mean looking after your own interests and at times working with the powers that be in order to achieve this and to achieve your own individual freedom, if that is something you want.

  11. You know what, I don't think they plan ever to release you.

    "You have been in prison for many years and your re-integration into the community, if it is ever to take place, must be handled slowly and carefully."

    They will consistently find reasons not to release you. Such as the Catch 22 you describe.

    You may be a card carrying member of the awkward squad, pissing them off right royally, but you are most importantly a reminder of what happened to a 14 year old kid that the criminal justice system buggered up for life. It's easier now for them to keep you out of sight and out of mind, if not completely off the blogosphere. Because they simply don't have a way of putting right what they put wrong in the first place.

    Sorry, I feel for you....

    So, keep kicking, because it is the only way that they will still remember that you are there. And maybe one or two of them will have a few sleepless nights.

  12. Hi Sophie, yours is a voice I have a lot of respect for. Yes, I agree, Ben's best interests are paramount. My concern here is the high-handedness of the report and what looks to me like disregard for due process. It makes it very difficult for Ben to be compliant, and that's where the danger lies (Ben being Ben).

    How John Hirst ever got out eludes and amazes me given his own refusal to compromise his integrity. I'd echo your words, Sophie. Tell us, please, John.

  13. Thank you Charles, I appreciate your comment very much. I just wanted to say that although yes its true Ben is 'awkward' in many ways and its something he admits to himself, if I didn't think people can change, (in fact people are always changing), I would give up right now, but, on the other hand they do also say that there is always one ... Hey ho, time will tell ...

  14. **blinks at the screen in utter befuddlement***

    They first state they are simply assessing the risk of your re-offending, then totally ignore the fact you have no record of violent behaviour in your whole prison life....then deem you a risk?

    I smell bovine excrement.

    Also this:

    "The Panel is wholly un-persuaded that the risk is now so small that you could be safely released at this stage"

    Aren't you or your lawyer allowed to ask what exactly leads them to deem you at risk of committing another violent crime? Any particular incident, for example?

  15. Sophie J: I think the first thing to bear in mind is that although some sentences are the same, the facts of cases are usually different and all prisoners being individuals they serve separate sentences.

    When the Parole Board was established under the CJA 1967, it was envisaged that only 20% of prisoners would get parole. This percentage remains to this day. However, if each case is treated on its own merits how come the release rate has remained the same throughout? It means that 80% of prisoners have not got a cat in hell's chance, in spite of the red tops claiming they are all getting out early!

    Legal challenges have forced the Parole Board to be less secretive and more open to scrutiny. For me the case of Thynne, Wilson and Gunnell v UK meant that I had my hand on the hand that held the key to the cell door. I simply had to turn it. Being aware that information is power, I made a point of getting hold of secret manuals and risk assessment procedures. I could now play the game.

    Like Charles has commented, even I am amazed that I pulled it off. There were 3 psychiatrists reports, 2 said never to be released and the 3rd said release with the untmost caution. I cannot honestly say whether I conned them or whether they made the right decision. Similarly, I cannot say just because Ben is my friend that he poses an acceptable risk for release. That decision is not mine to make. A lifer goes out after 20 years and within days sets fire to the same farmers barn which got him the original life sentence!

    I agree with Tallguy when he states that pulling out a paragraph does not give the whole picture. It is only reading the whole Parole Board decision letter which allows a better understanding of their thinking. Even then one has to read between the lines.

    It's a gamble. The Bulger killers case shows that child killers can get out on tariff, and before them so did Mary Bell. Why then is Ben's so different? All I know is that when a prisoner sought my legal advice I had to know all the details to properly defend them against the prison authorities. Ben, for his own reasons, appears to be keeping some information back. There is undoubtedly negligence and corruption on the part of the authorities, but this is only a partial explanation. Perhaps, one day Ben will rummage around and provide the missing pieces to the jig-saw puzzle? Otherwise, we will never get the full picture.

  16. Thanks JHL what inspiring reading!

  17. LIke jhl says: it's a gamble, and, like all gambles, we may not know which hand is going to be the winner in advance, but we do know how many hands will win or lose in a given time frame.

    We can't spot the lifers that will go out and reoffend, all we can do is take the actions that reduce the numbers that will to the smallest possible. At the moment, we are not doing that.