Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Prison Blogger Begins Hunger Strike"

Yes, it's true.  Up until now I thought Cardiff were being helpful, but yesterday I visited Ben and he told me what was going on.  I allowed 24 hours for them to improve matters, but a phone call from Ben today confirms that nothing has changed. This is the situation: he is still wearing the clothes he was transferred in last Wednesday because they have refused to give him his possessions, he is sharing a cell with random remand prisoners (unheard of for a Cat D Lifer), he is not allowed his word processor, he has not been told why he is there and why Prescoed did not accept him, and he has not received any post. On Monday he happily watched his possessions being loaded onto a Group 4 van for a transfer to Ley Hill (another Open prison) only to be sent back to the wing and told that actually he was not going there after all.

A letter received today says this: "Things took a sinister turn for the worst today.  Having first tried to tell me that the closed visit was cancelled by you, a screw said that the Gov had stopped it because I'd use it to tell you stuff for the blog.  I was then threatened with a punch in the mouth for my less than joyous attitude. It was pointed out that, with my cell mate leaving in the morning, I would be in the cell alone. I need you to blog this ASAP in the hope that it may protect me against 'accidents' or staff cornering me in my cell and claiming I assaulted them".

Make of that what you will.  Here is the rest of the story that has been sent out this evening:

“Ben Gunn, author of Ben’s prison blog, has been forced to adopt a hunger strike in an effort to save his PhD research.
Having left HMP Shepton Mallet on a transfer to open prison prior to release last Wednesday, 2nd March, Ben unaccountably finds himself dumped at Cardiff local prison.

Being denied access to either his research notes or his word-processor, Ben fears that his attempts to complete his PhD are at an end.  The fees for his studies were donated by readers of his blog and the Guardian.

In a desperate effort, Ben has begun to starve himself.  His only demand is that he is allowed to continue the research that is so important to his future and rehabilitation.”

Blog Ed.


  1. Bloody hell that's terrible! What can we do to help? Publicise it? Write to the prison governor? Anything more useful?

  2. What is going on here? Surely Bens' solicitor can do something??. He is after all supposed to be off to open!! Has this been the plan all along? Isolate him? worried about what he can tell us?. Seems the rights of the rest of the world are of a bigger concern to this Govt, than following a legal ruling ie the parole boards decision, confirmed by the MOJ, that Ben should be moved to open.

    Please let us know who/what is the best way forward to helping Ben.

  3. We won't be silenced! And the Cardiff Governor can take that to the bank!

  4. This is a disgrace, we should bombard the MoJ with mail and make as much noise as possible for Ben.

  5. The director general might be a good start, Queenie. Email:
    or contact Crispin Blunt, prisons minister.
    Ben's solicitor has been contacted. Watch this space.

  6. Have a look at jailhouselawyersblog. He has posted telephone Nos. to enquire on the progress of the investigation (he has complained about a threat of violence) and another No to complain direct to HMP Cardiff regarding Bens treatment, please ring!! It may just save Ben a beating!!

  7. Thanks for the info, I have mailed him already and intend to post the address to my fb page.....PFV Admin are right when they say we wont be silenced. This is a complete outrage.

  8. Have also emailed Mr Spurr, come on people, this is our chance to try and help.

  9. I hope you dont mind this Ed, but I have shared this to give others the info in case they havent found it for themselves.

    Free Prison Ben - Now on Hunger Strike
    Good Morning to all.......please dont forget to phone the Nos to enquire/complain about Ben today,and every day!! I have also got The Director Generals email address, if you can, contact Crispin Blunt Minister for Prisons!! crime of threat of violence Cardiff police. Ref No. 2110079290 Call Cardiff Police 01656 655 555 and ask what is happening with the investigation Telephone Cardiff Prison Tel: 02920 923100 COMPLAINTS DEMAND EXPLANATION Thank You so Much for your help in this

  10. Me again, this is a copy of something posted to facebook, I hope you dont mind me sharing. I am disappointed to say she was the FIRST to call @ 9.20 am!! This call was placed to the HMP Cardiff Tel. No. above

    Pagan Dance

    Spoke to a wonderfully professional man called Don Baker. He was very courteous and sympathetic and has promised to take my concern for Ben's plight to someone in authority. He said that he couldn't give me any information and I told him I understood but that but I, as a concerned citizen and a tax payer felt that I had a right to voice my concerns over Ben's health and welfare. I suggested that he relay my suggestion to his superiors of perhaps releasing a short statement to the general public concerning this matter and to just assure us that they are doing everything in their power to ensure that none of Ben's human rights are being violated. I'm just on the verge of sending an e-mail to the above address as well. Mr Baker has given me a telephone number for their press office. It is 02033343555. He says that they might not talk to anybody who is not connected to the press but I'm sure as hell going to give it a damn good try. I hope my little voice counts.............See more

  11. I don't know whether this helps or not -- but anyway, I used to work in a prison, so I thought I'd share with you what I know. When a prisoner goes on hunger strike it is treated as a self-harm incident. By now an ACCT document should have been opened on Ben, which is the system by which Safer Custody work with prisoners at risk or making attempts of suicide/self harm. D Cat prisons WILL NOT take prisoners on an ACCT, and indeed prisoners will usually NOT be transfered whilst on the document. I'm not suggesting Ben give up his hunger strike -- he can fight this as he sees fit, and obviously he knows his own situation better than I do.

    I am thinking of Ben and hoping he will find a resolution soon.



    Links appear under HMP Cardiff Locate A Prison!


  13. Can I please remind everyone who gives a damn to use the phone No's and email address above!!

  14. I just spoke to Mr Baker too, he was indeed very supportive and tells me that there have been 'positive developments' this morning but couldn't say more. I trust him to speak to his superiors about our complaints and take them seriously. Also to email Crispin Blunt go to

  15. Thanks Jules, lets hope things improve, at least they know we are watching, grateful for Mr Blunts info also. x

  16. Dame Davina PancakeMarch 10, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    Very concerned to hear that Ben has chosen the hunger-strike route - both from the point of view of his health and also the potential of jeopardising his move to open conditions. Copy of email sent to Messrs Spurr/Blunt & my MP today below.

    Davina x

    Dear Mr Spurr

    I am writing to you in your capacity as Director of NOMS. For several years now I have followed the case of John “Ben” Gunn (now a category “D” prisoner) who as you will be aware is serving life for a crime committed when he was a teenager. My understanding is that as per the ruling of his most recent parole board hearing, Mr Gunn was due to be transferred from HMP Shepton Mallet to an open prison (HMP Prescoed) last week, but was instead moved to HMP Cardiff.

    I understand that he has not been given a satisfactory reason for this move and that management at HMP Cardiff has placed him in a cell shared with random remand prisoners (very unusual in the case of a cat “D” lifer) and blocked his attempts to continue with his PhD studies, not permitting access to his word processor and other possessions. Further, and of most concern to me, is the fact that he has been threatened with violence by some of the officers at HMP Cardiff.

    I would strongly urge you to personally involve yourself in this case and ask that you move swiftly to investigate the allegations around his treatment at HMP Cardiff and in particular expedite his move to an open prison.

    Kind regards

    cc: Rt Hon Richard Benyon MP
    Rt Hon Crispin Blunt MP

  17. Ordinarily I would get involved and fight on behalf of Ben, but as it stands I am having a fight with another prison where a friend of mine is being held and their utter incompetence.

  18. Ben must be feeling simply awful and I really feel for both him and blog ed, I really hope this can be resolved quickly. I hope the conditions Ben finds himself in improve dramatically and soon.

    We are thinking of you Ben and praying too. I pray that you will have peace in your mind, body and spirit and strength to see you through this difficult time.

    The penal system is just so awful it beggars belief, I am so sorry. I have e-mailed Michael Spurr too and hope that it will make a positive difference.

  19. Ben - I am so sorry this has happened to you, and that you feel the need to go on a hunger strike.
    I am using contact addresses as they appear here, asking for a prompt, & favourable interventions.
    Wishing you well, and thinking of you.

  20. We all know how the Prison Service and warders hate intelligent and self-sufficient people like Ben but, given that they know full well about his blog and all his supporters, what on earth were the twats at Cardiff thinking about picking on hime and threatening him. Just proves they are even more stupid than even I thought.

  21. @ Anon 4.06pm: After a few minutes talking to Mr Baker at HMP Cardiff it became very clear that he at any rate (as complaints officer)had been unaware of the blog and the amount of support Ben has on the outside. I can only assume that if he had no idea then neither did other staff at Cardiff.

    Also, out of interest, did anyone have a reply from Messrs Blunt or Spurr? It should be common courteousy to send an acknowledgment surely.

  22. I think a lot more people are aware of the blog than previously!!

    And Jules, Sad to say not one word from any of the people who were emailed about this. I feel another email coming on......

  23. You folks don't really belive all that crap this guy writes do you? Beatings in his cell; serving more time because he "champions" other peoples rights?
    The reality is, that inside, he constantly falls foul of prison rules for bullying and threats to other inmates not to mention staff,non compliance to regimes timetable (thinks he alone has the right to do exactly as he wishes at the expence of other prisoners) and he, and YOU wonder why he remains incarcerated, ye gods how gullible you people are.
    Face it, he's locked up for killing another hunam being, and that makes him a hero does it? Unbelieable.

    1. nice one! about time someone spoke up !

    2. Two years late, granted, but I just noticed this comment.... Interesting. Seems I'm being accused of bullying and threatening other prisoners, "not to mention staff"; odd the Parole Board failed to notice any of this proto-violence as the one thing everybody agrees is that my 32 years was devoid of such behaviour. Ho hum.

      And just to be sensible - I was locked up for killing my friend. That covers the first ten years. The other 22? Fior being a minor pain in the arse. You're right Anon - unbelievable!

  24. Maybe we do, maybe we don't believe everything Ben says, but the fact is that the prison system is biased and barbaric against poor and working class people, and Ben speaks up against it.

    There are many people in situations similar to Ben's, and whatever anyone thinks of Ben as a person, he is right to point out the truth of the matter as he and many others like him see it.

    Ben has had a lifetime full of injustice and brutality, being able to survive it like he has would take its toll on him and on anyone for that matter.

    So no, he is probably far from perfect, but let he who is without sin cast the first stone ...

  25. What a load of bollocks ! The guy's in prison and he's complaining he cant finish his phd because he hasn't got access to his word processor! He should be so bloody lucky! Not bad though , go to jail for whatever crime and get much better (free) treatment and opportunities most law abiding people can only dream about. The "hunger strike" is a favourite ploy of inmates who cant get their own way, most inmates have been on "hunger strike" at some time, they (inmates) know full well they are not going to come to any harm, it's bollocks, just like the dick head who is purporting to write this blog!!

    1. Being called a dickhead by someone who hasn't even the stones to identify themselves is truly delicious.

      Blimey mate, pitching in 2 years after these events and nearly a year after I left keep up! So, no, I'm not in prison. And you are so fast to pitch in with a comment when you don't even know what I was in prison for! So - a considered and thought out view, eh?!

      What free and better treatment and opportunities do prisoners get compared to outside? My PhD research certainly wasn't free or easy, though it cost the taxpayer sod-all, I had to fight nearly 4 years to just begin it. And its outcome would have reduced violent conflict in prison. Ho hum.

      And, let me check...yep, it's definitely me who writes this blog. I suggest you return to the Daily Mail website.