Thursday, March 17, 2011


Cardiff Cat-B local prison. Oh, joy. Shuffling between waiting rooms as we were booked-in, searched, logged, examined. Bumping into prisoners who weren't even born when I began my sentence. I had to sit on the BOSS chair, a metal detector meant to uncover phones hidden in, ahem, "body orifices". Quite who tries to smuggle a mobile phone to Open prison was a question met with shrugs.
As always, from harsh experience, I had packed an emergency bag for such temporary detours, and I grabbed it. We were not allowed access to the rest of our property. As this included my research materials, my anxiety began to rise.
We were assured that we would be "off to Frescoed on Friday", in two days time and meanwhile be located in single cells on the Lifer wing. That was the first lie. That we were moving on Friday the second. Not a good score; we'd hardly got off the wagon and been lied to twice.
To the wing, a masterpiece of what I call "security-brutalist" architectural style. All very nice and clean but far removed from the functional elegance of Victorian wings. This was thick concrete and heavy metalwork, a reaction to the riots of 1990.
The wing office and a screw that I knew from Shepton. He was as baffled as we were, made inquiries, and repeated what we'd been told in Reception - "off on Friday". I blagged some A4 paper and we were allocated beds.
Our cell was extremely shabby, damaged furniture and threadbare mattresses. Standard local prison conditions. The TV didn't work. Bunk beds, the top one being higher than any either of us had previously seen. I took the top, just to help create a fragile illusion of some privacy.
Little did I know, the Editor had already tracked me down to Cardiff and was attempting to book a visit. This failed as, not being Cardiff's prisoners (orphans), I "hadn't been put on the system”.
As we went to sleep that night, we were no wiser. Were we still on our way to Frescoed? Were we still on our way to any Open prison? When would we get access to our property? When would we be told what was happening, and by whom?
With no access to the payphone - "not on the system", remember? -I felt incredibly isolated. Did anyone know where I was? Being adrift in the prison system is a situation fraught with potential for difficulties, even danger. My only protection against Authority was the inherent decency of those in charge - a variable property, at best - and the comfort that people outside of the walls are aware of my location and situation. At that moment, I had the solace of neither.


  1. This is so sad, can't think of anything to say atm, so here is a song for you Ben, 'The fields of Athenry' by Paddy Reily, a St Paddy's day special, best wishes to you x

  2. What a way to treat anyone!! It is almost beyond belief - but of course we know it is true. Firstly Ben would not lie about this and secondly I have first hand knowledge of other similar situations causing distress to the prisoners, their families and friends and even the prison staff on occasions. What a system. Keep strong Ben.

  3. I agree, a shocking way to treat anyone.

    Take comfort from the fact that you are never alone Ben, and you have people here, on the outside, who will make sure you are never forgotten.

    What news now of 'open'? Lets hope they get their act together this time and know we are watching.

  4. I would call the whole episode a "cruel and unusual" punishment.