Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Criticism

From the very beginning, it has always been a hope of mine that the blog reach an audience usually found propping up a bar with a copy of the Daily Mail in the back pocket.
The Editor tells me that I'm getting a fair bit of flack over my latest shenanigans, which is excellent news. We must avoid a mutual love-in and as anyone knows, I do so enjoy a good row. It keeps the mental juices flowing.
Firstly, the mobile. I make no apologies for my occasional usage of that illicit item. The prohibition on mobiles in prison is based on specious arguments and fears, a feature of the prison services ingrained horror of technology. That they happen to make a fat profit off our use of payphones may also have an influence. It is a bad rule, and bad rules should be challenged.
The use of a mobile opened new horizons, allowed me to forge new contacts and explore potential futures. Without it, I doubt that I would have a partner, a home to go to...and loving support. The actuarially minded realise that these vastly decrease my odds of ever reoffending - if I wanted to make that argument. More cheekily, I could suggest that I was doing the rehabilitative job that the prison service should have done...
Much as it may bug my keepers, the mobile only led to great positive things. The going rate, in punishment, is a few weeks down the Block. Okay then. But should this really lead to my losing my move to open prison? And my chance of release next year? Really...?

30 comments:

  1. The sooner you can get out the better Ben, just so that you have the freedom to chat back to some of the small minded daily mail reading dullards who comment on your blog and think its great to be shallow and dumb

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  2. This isn't a 'row' nor a game but hopefully a serious discussion about a person's future. Whatever way Ben wants to rationalise his decisions, progressive moves and ultimately release are only decided on terms set by and agreed by the Parole Board not the prisoner. This may seem unfair to some, or rational to others, but it's fact.

    I think this is as much a battle of principle as anything. Not a bad thing I hasten to add if you believe firmly in the principle. But it needs to be understood that if it is a matter of principle, it's one most unlikely to be won by the inmate and everyone needs to acknowledge that.

    Lets be really blunt about it. Is it likely that a prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence who, for whatever reason, continues to break prison rules will get a progressive move? Or put another way, is it likely that a prisoner who gets to open conditions and breaks a prison rule will be returned to closed conditions? I think it's a relatively simple case of cause and effect. In such a situation, in many respects what the Probation Officer says will be academic as actions will be speaking much louder.

    If it really is a matter of principle, then we all have to respect Ben's decision, but the likelihood of progression will sadly be remote in my view.

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  3. I do understand, i would be lost without my phone and laptop, in fact my internet was down for a few days, and i felt cut off from the world.... Why are prison phone calls so expensive? I guess the contract is with BT???? most of us out here get free calls evenings and weekends, and some people i know get free calls in the day, calling moblies has always been expensive, but the prison service should look into this, as no wonder people have their own phones, don't blame them.

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  4. You are full of good advice, Jim, but sometimes you make me angry because you represent the system and it's clearly in need of an overhaul. There are so many alternatives, more about restorative justice and respect for the individual. Anyone see the documentary on that prison in Norway, for example? Zilch re-offending rate.

    Anyway, Ben has to function in the Victorian, narrow minded and vindictive prison set-up that we have today, which infantilises inmates and does not adequately prepare them for release.

    Maybe Ben should bite his tongue and toe the line, then fight for reform from the other side of the prison walls. But if he did, and changed his nature so radically, they would probably tell him he was being manipulative!

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  5. Unfortunately, the only experience I've had of mobiles in prison is of a friend being threatened and intimidated by someone they helped put inside.

    Whilst I can understand the frustration that leads to their use in genuine, non-criminal cases, a far better solution would be to sort out the ridiculous problem of prison phone call costs.

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  6. Jim Brown

    In my experience, applying for parole is precisely the ‘game’ that you say it’s not, - albeit one that can have far reaching consequences if ‘played’ wrong. The simple and undeniable fact is, if Ben says the right thing – he gets out. And if doesn’t, well...he doesn’t. I suspect it’s as much about what Ben refuses to keep to himself, as it is about what he actually says.

    It’s not Ben’s ‘principles’ that are keeping him inside, but his reluctance to ‘park them up for a while’, and his unfortunate habit of getting caught, for what has to be said, (considering his environment) are quite petty misdemeanours.

    I know Probation officers like to think that they play a pivotal role in securing a prisoners release, but ultimately it’s the man himself making all the decisions, whether consciously or subconsciously. Be it right or wrong.

    Ben.

    Stop getting caught. Start getting out!

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  7. Agreed 'it's the man himself making all the decisions, consciously or unconsciously.' Probation Officers can only try and make sense of it and make recommendations.

    I've just re-read Lord Ramsbotham's public comments he's made on Ben's situation and the letter he wrote to Ken Clarke last year. It's obviously very unusual for such a high profile figure to comment on a current case.

    Two things spring to mind, firstly not even he has had sight of the whole file and therefore cannot be privy to the reasons why moves to open have been refused in the past and secondly, I wonder what his comments would be about the current situation? Would he be recommending an immeadiate move to open, or release even?

    Maybe time for another Guardian interview by Eric Allinson. I'd be very interested to hear Lord Ramsbotham's current views.

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  8. it's not whether it SHOULD cost you so much.
    it's that it DOES.

    you are (probably) right on all counts as to the should of it all, but the reality lies with the does. so no matter how stupid the rule, i'd suggest you abide by it for the time it takes for you to reach your goal.

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  9. I was recently on a course and the lecturer said something controversial. There was an immediate muttering and a few people called out as the 50 or so lawyers in the each prepared for an argument. But, the lecturer cut across the muttering and said, "I'm not going to argue about the fairness of this contract I'll tell you the rules and you can follow them or not as you wish".

    Ben seems to be in the same situation, he can follow the rules and get out or he can break the rules to make a point and run the risk of not being released.

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  10. It is as impossible to abide by all the rules in a prison all the time. Just as it is impossible to obey the law (to the letter!) out here on the streets.

    The trick is in the not getting caught!

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  11. a person who reads thingsJune 15, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    The problem with mobile phones in prison is somewhat like the problem of gun ownership, or possession of cannabis.

    Yes, I can own a gun without a licence and have no intention of shooting people.
    Yes, I can have cannabis because i think it is a pretty plant and have no intention of smoking it.

    However, there is a potential to use it differently. And as it is impossible to tell how I intend to use it, therefore there has to be a rule preventing me having it.

    As for the playstation, mentioned in an earlier post, there are clear reasons for that rule. As Ben pointed out in his first post, prison order is dependent on there being carrots as well as sticks. You work hard, save up, behave well, and you get a playstation. If you allow that benefit to be shared by the community it lessons the benefit of that carrot, meaning incentives to behave well are lessened. Therefore there have to be rules preventing the benefit being passed.

    The fact is, there are reasons for these rules. The issue that Ben has is that the reasons don't apply to him, meaning that the rules are unfair in his case.

    Equally, Lewis Hamilton could probably drive safely at 125mph on public roads. Joe Public couldn't. So there has to be a speed limit, even if it applies to those whom it needn't.

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  12. Ben feels that prisoners should be allowed to have mobile phones -- I do not agree with him at all on that one. The potential for abuse would be enormous and utterly open-ended.

    If he had been minded to accept the challenge of disciplining himself enough to be set free then he could have achieved all those goods he puts down to later mobile phone use. Long ago.

    He probably started his sentence immature, and went on like that. Hardly surprising given the history, but definitely leaving only himself to blame and not the system he's opted to remain within.

    He should have grown up and got out long ago in my opinion.

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  13. I fully agree with the last post by Anonymous; Ben may have used his mobile with good intentions, however, mobiles can also be lent out to other prisoners (for return favours,)and Shepton holds a large proportion of sex offenders & paedophiles.

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  14. I wonder if Ben's parole chances would improve if he occasionally removed his head from up his own backside. Maybe there's a hope that they will improve now that the comments section of this blog seems to have stepped back slightly from the reflex response of telling Ben how wonderful he is no matter what he writes on this blog - which I can't believe helps with his attitude.

    Just for the record, one doesn't have to be a Daily Mail reading bigot in order to disagree with something Ben has said or to believe that he's occasionally been a bloody fool and damaged his own chances of parole for reasons which have little to do with a principled stance against authoritarianism and more to do with self-aggrandisement connected with his Gandhi self-image. Nor does thinking he's been a fool at times stop one from sympathising with his situation generally.

    This blog ought to be a useful means of connecting Ben with the outside world preparatory to his (hopefully soon) release. It's not going to do him any good for this blog to lead him to believe that society at large will believe that he's been hard done by and will readily overlook a lack of humility on his part.

    When Ben is released, society will expect him to demonstrate that he's earned its trust, not that he believes that society is in debt to him.

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  15. @ Steve H, just for the record, I too have been critical of Ben on a number of occasions here on his blog, there is always room for improvement for any individual, and Ben is no exception.

    I do agree with a fair proportion of what Ben writes here and his stance against the injustices of the CJS, it takes a certain character to do what he does, and the doing of it is more important than what he is like as a person, we can all be criticised for being who we are, but we won't get anywhere as a race if we all just sat about being nice and did nothing to make change.

    There is good humour on this blog too which I enjoy; helps with the hard times that many of us face.

    Your last sentence is important Steve, and one that I agree with too. It strikes me as an important part of maturity; the realisation that society owes you nothing, although for some people it can be a bitter pill to swallow, after all we didn't choose to be born, but its what we make of our lives here that is important.

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  16. Ben whatever else he has been and is elsewhere, here he’s a manipulator. I rarely read one of his posts without thinking just that …and being slightly more specific about it what I usually find myself doing is marvelling sooner or later into his post at his chutzpah and ability to discount the massive elephant in the room whenever he’s rather creepily sounding off. He naively thinks that by adverting in a rather winsome and hopefully winning way to these elephants himself, he is thus engaging them on his side.

    I too hope that things get a little more realistic for him on this blog (in terms of what people are actually prepared to share with him about his situation).

    So to me, reading between the lines here, Ben is a manipulator. Could that be a goodish part of the reason why he’s still where he is?

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  17. Anonymous 7.33 could you give some examples please, I don't understand what you are saying or refering to in your comment, apart from your assertion that Ben is a manipulator.

    I don't doubt that because for one thing being able to manipulate our environment is something that makes us human and distinct from animals, but of course what matters is ones intention; what purpose and to what avail you use your powers of manipulation.

    Ben probably does need to put his manipulative side to better use than he may have done in the past, but in order for him to do this, he needs to feel secure in himself and know that those around him will not hurt or abuse him, hence the love that I and his other supporters have been showing him.

    No man is an island, we are not here to pave a way for just ourselves, but for us all alike, as equals, as brothers and sisters.

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  18. Anon 7:33 - Absolutely right. Ben is manipulative. That's a big element I guess. He's not good enough at it to get out but is enough to draw in the gullible or those with a predisposition towards conspiracies.

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  19. " ... enough to draw in the gullible or those with a predisposition towards conspiracies."
    June 15, 2011 8:04 PM

    What does that mean?

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  20. Manipulative? More like manipulated by the system that still keeps him incarcerated, at a cost of over £40,000 a year to the tax-payer,supported, it would seem, by most readers of this blog.

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  21. For me the perceived creepiness in the Ben persona here, definitely does not derive directly from the nature of the crime he committed. He was a kid when he did that, and I believe as I think do his ‘keepers’ as he describes them, that he should have been out in free society donkeys years ago. The problem now very much is that by doing what he did he has placed a deeply onerous burden on said keepers re letting him out. They have to be sure that it is in society’s interests to do so (because otherwise they themselves as individuals and the release system generally will be brought into disrepute).

    And that won’t help anyone.

    Ben is not helping them at all, and rarely has. That strikes me as immature, unrealistic, needy, pathetic, sad etc etc et al.

    In lieu of doing the decent thing (and sustaining that decent thing)….he has started this blog.

    And on here, it’s low-level manipulation all the way innit. I think so anyway.

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  22. Surely the system wants rid of him? There must be a reason he is still inside. Lots of people get out. He must be thought potentially dangerous. Its a mistake to make judgements if you only have heard one side of any story. And that is all this is. One side of the story.

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  23. bla bla bla what a load of shit these anonymous people are talking

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  24. From very end of title track on 'American Gothic' (a very satisfying LP from David Ackles in 1972) ...

    "...Ah, but are they happy? You'd be surprised. ....They suffer least who suffer what they choose."

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  25. Anonymous at 7.33,

    Interestingly Ben addresses the issue of manipulation on November 9th 2010 and entitled 'Therapeutic Deception' He says "I don't manipulate and I don't lie. If I did, I wouldn't still be sitting here."

    Clearly some might question that assertion.

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  26. He has only committed one act of violence in over 30 years. So why not let him out? According to you lot, people living in society should not tell lies, ever, not try to be manipulative, ever, not dispute any rule they disagree with (before you start, just how many of us rant on about speed cameras and parking tickets?). Not be disagreeable, not speak out about what is right, never air their views etc. In other words, be perfect. Dream on.

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  27. Yes quite Goose, well said. How many of these commenters here actually write a decent blog with a large following and have things to say for themselves? They just sit back, point the finger at another, and in such a lazy manner! Its such an easy thing to do especially as no-one knows anything about them. Ridiculous.

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  28. Goose.

    I could not have put it better myself.

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  29. Concerning manipulation - if you believe that Ben is manipulating then you are saying that some of us who support this blog are gullible and easily manipulated.

    a) I speak only for myself here, but I'm not 'green' having posted before about my work and experience of prison/troubled young people/offfenders. Kindness and belief in the equal worth of everyone doesn't equate with being soft or gullible.

    b) Even if you feel Ben is manipulative at times, it is living in the system all his life that has made him that way.

    c)Even if he was the most manipulative person in the world, something would have caused him to be that way and he still would need compassion and to have people affirm him as a human being.

    OK those who support Ben on here don't know Ben personally, but neither do you negative people. 'Judge not, that you may not be judged'.

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  30. Jules,

    Manipulation and even lying are part of us all and our interactions with other people. But it is a question of degree, motivation, justification, etc.

    Anyone who says they do not manipulate is devoid of insight in my view. It can be a positive process - court reports seek to manipulate/persuade/argue for a particular course of action - normally against custody. But it can also be a negative process designed to just play mind games or get ones own way as part of nefarious activity. In the end it has to be a judgement call as to what it's about.

    There is no doubt in my mind that manipulation is going on - the question is for what reason and what end? It needs recognising and discussing - and there has been some good debate on here. But I suspect we're not likely to agree because my perspective is as a professional with experience right in the criminal justice system.

    However, I do believe we all share the aim that it would be good for Ben to get out sooner rather than later.

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