Thursday, June 23, 2011


Here's a thought for those who believe that breaking prison rules has any connection with re-offending on release.
Well, two thoughts. First, do your damn research. Secondly, has it occurred that the tighter the restrictions you place on a person, then the greater the chance he may transgress? So that the transgressions are just as much a function of the restrictions as they are of the transgressor?
I've been scratching my head, and I don't think I've ever been charged with a prison disciplinary offence for something which, if done on the street, would be a crime.
Using a phone. Pretty normal out there..? Borrowing stuff off a neighbour. Refusing to work. Refusing to shave.
The nearest, I guess, is having the odd spliff in the past. Not that I was ever caught with even a grain of dope, but only busted on a urine-test. And out there, having THC in your system isn't illegal, is it?
My "crimes" are prison crimes, not real-world ones. The boundaries imposed on us in here are drawn very tightly, far more tightly than outside. And I chafe at them, largely for their stupidity and pointlessness. I mean, who the hell thinks holding me down and shaving me by force at the age of 15 made any bloody sense??
You could argue that the regime should be strict, it’s the nature of imprisonment. But two points arise. Under the Rules, then we should be regulated only as far as is necessary for an orderly, safe, institution. And - so many people overlook this small matter - the population of this prison are largely over-tariff. We are not here for punishment any longer.
So I break - on occasion - rules which seem irrational and unreasonable. Big deal. If I did the same outside, I'd expect to be hauled before the Courts and given due punishment.

But these petty transgressions are being used to keep me – and thousands more - in prison on a Life sentence. Of course, there are behaviours which could - should - raise eyebrows. If I was a raving alcoholic or smackhead or if I believed that violence was the answer to most of life’s questions, then I could appreciate hesitancy on the part of my keepers to sign the release papers.

The thing is, I don't exhibit any of these faults.


  1. As I sit here unshaven with a spliff in my mouth that I borrowed from the chap next door having decided to phone in sick for work....

  2. if you continually push boundaries inside who is to say you would not continue to push boundaries outside?
    You are saying it makes no sense. Perhaps there is something you are missing?

    You say you do not believe violence is an answer to lifes questions but what you have 'actually done' in other peoples eyes is continually push boundaries.
    What are they to make their judgement on? What you say? or what you have done? (ie continually push against rules)
    Another point is that continually pushing against rules because they make no sense to you is putting your own (arrogance maybe) opinion above that of the rules.
    Inside the prison the rules may not make sense. But that is not the point of obeying the rules from the perspective of authority.
    Outside if you have that attitude. 'It makes no sense to me therefore I will do what I want' results in a more dangerous position.
    Perhaps that is what you are missing and perhaps it is that attitude which means, in yours as well as others situations, that your position is a life continues.
    The rules are there for a reason but a reason beyond the rule in itself. The attitude towards the rule can be more important than the statement of the rule.
    Perhaps it is the attitude towards the rules that is paramount.
    Attitude towards rules and the law is much more important when you're outside.
    If I have to make a judgement on a lifers freedom perhaps this attitude towards rules would be one of the deciding points.

  3. I do take issue with the assertion that having THC in your urine isn't illegal. To me it sounds rather like having a GPS which records a maximum speed of 85mph but not having received a speeding ticket being taken as not having broken the speed limit.

    Things are still criminal even if you are not caught. Granted, you can only be punished if you are court, but the assertion made runs contrary to the desire to be a good citizen.

  4. Exactly.

    That expresses the nature of my disquiet about what is going on here (far better than I can).

    The blog comes across as a way of circumventing what most people would hope is the absolute necessity of gaining the respect and confidence of those charged with the heavy burden of responsibility re release date decision.

    The fact is that a serious crime was committed ---the system now quite rightly is looking for a higher standard of self-control than expected from the Mr Average Joe out in society.

    But what we are seeing here is a chronicle detailing this blogger's refusal to go along with any such thing.

    When the professionals inside don't like that/are frightened/exasperated by it, he exposes them as idiots and agents of an unyielding institution whose response to this principled fellow is knee-jerk repression.

    [=manipulation of audience?

  5. My 'exactly' went to anon's contribution at 10:34am.

  6. @Anon June 23, 2011 10:34 And if i had to make a judgement in this particular matter it is this. The people you speak of have kept this man in prison unjustly based on petty charges is really very sad.

    Morally you have no right to hold people to a higher account than would be expected in normal society and let's face it the ridiculous charges you make for phonecalls in prison and the lack of facilities available, no wonder inmates resort to smuggled mobiles.

    You set people up for a fall.

    {=Abuse of power?

  7. @ Anon 12.35pm.

    Totally agree with you on the abuse of power here.

    Apart from spending 21 days 'on the block' for the mobile phone incident,(this usually incurs a 10 day punishment) he has also lost the use of his word processor, without which he can no longer continue with his PhD.

    Seven times the going rate for a phone call is ludicrous. Who smuggles in the phones? According to the stats' appx 40% is by friends and families, prison officers are not searched in and out of prisons, not regularly anyway.

  8. This recent negative anonymous troll smells like a screw/copper to me, heh, definitely someone used to dehumanising people.

    And yes, the theft of his word processor is pretty petty. Suppose it gives him an excuse to improve his handwriting to a readable point though (not that I can talk)

  9. Oh yes, and teadrinker, heh, again, Weed should not be illegal, it is an imposition on my individual freedom to do something which might stand a tiny chance of harming me and certainly harms nobody else.

    It is less harmful than both Alcohol and Tobacco as numerous peer reviewed scientific studies have shown and the continuing prohibition is a joke.

    I never consented to this sort of control, none of us did, what right has anyone to impose their will on mine on this matter?

    But apart from that rather important point, internal possession is NOT illegal so the rest of your point is so much hot air. Possession is illegal, Supply is illegal, Consumption is not illegal odd as it seems.

  10. In my opinion, Ben makes a very solid argument for release in the words of this post alone.

  11. @Hideki

    I never said the THC in the bloodstream was illegal. I was merely commenting on the fact that Ben complained that he was punished for committing a crime that he admits doing, but not enough evidence was uncovered to reach an "outside" conviction.

    As for the rest of it, the current position of democracy depends on the rule of law. You may disagree with it, but until you change things via revolution that is the way the country works, and that is the way society works, so you, Ben and others have to for the sake of practicality accept it and live with it.

  12. Its a criminal offence to bring a phone into prison Ben.

    There's a big sign on your prison entrance door that says you can go to prison for 2 years for bringing one in.....

    If you can't follow simple rules such as keeping yourself clean (which in a prison of a 1000 men is used to stop disease spreading)or feel that your crimes are not 'real world ones' then that shows not only a clear ability to reoffend but a lack of connection with the real word and real world rules.

    Better to keep you nice and safe in prison where you are happy breaking minor rules, learning nothing from the last 30 years in prison.

  13. 'Under the Rules, then we should be regulated only as far as is necessary for an orderly, safe, institution.'

    On this point I think its relevant to note that phones are often used to conduct conversations that prisoners do not want to be overhead. Granted the cost of calls is high (and I agree this should be addressed as a separate issue) but the cost to purchase a mobile in prison is also high! Mobiles are often used to aid the process of smuggling of drugs into prisons, drug debts often result in violence... this poses a threat to the orderly, safe establishment... I have also known of a case where a hit was ordered via mobile phone - the visitor was a wanted man, spotted on a visit to another inmate, and arrangements made for when he left the prison. I am not suggesting Ben is involved in any of these activities, but the bigger picture on the mobile phone situation is not quite as clear cut as Ben's own view.

    Furthermore, prison is a false environment but if someone cannot appreciate and cooperate with the rules of a regimented and controlled environment, how can anyone confidently predict they will comply with society's rules and expectations?

    Of course the counter argument is that mobile phone possession does not necessarily add up to 'risk to life and limb' which is the ultimate question posed by the parole board. Without knowing the full facts of the case I wouldnt want to comment on that issue. But the fact is Ben once took a life, and the Board are looking for evidence that he is safe to release. His best method of providing this evidence is to cooperate with the system and demonstrate responsible behaviour. Ben has the drive, experience and support to be influential in a campaign for change in the system, but surely this is best achieved on the outside...

  14. A pedant writes... Teadrinker, I'm fairly sure that having any drug in one's system isn't a crime. Why do I think this? Well, if one is arrested for shoplifting, upon arrival at the police stn, one is automatically tested for heroin & cocaine - If the test comes back positive, no charges result from the positive test . What would the charge even be? "Possession"? In one's bloodstream? Pffft.

    All the best in the new gaffe, Ben. Maybe try to keep your head down a wee bit, though?

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. Ben is now in Erlestoke. Address for correspondence is: Ben Gunn A8761AN, HMP Erlestoke, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 5TU

  17. @Anon from 8:10 PM

    Hi !

    Just to say I wish you get a 30 years-term too. Or rather, 10 years tariff and extra decades of nonsense. How you minimize all this is deeply worrying, so I say: try it pal.
    No, the screws won't realize how human you are. You will also be a little shit to them.
    Also, you fail.
    You fail at reasoning. You fail at compassion. You fail at common sense. Your total and voluntary misunderstanding of the situation is worst than anything Ben have ever done. He paid his debt long ago, and yet you want to torture that man, AND you want us to say it's ok. You are sick.

    Equating no shave with reoffending ? And what kind of beard spread disease anyway ?

  18. >>Erlestoke Prison receives adult male prisoners from much of England and Wales, as well as from local prisons in South Wales and Bristol in particular. Accommodation at the prison comprises seven accommodation units, 3 Enhanced; 3 Standard; 1 Lifer and long-term prisoner unit. Most cells are single occupancy with integral sanitation. However there are a small number of double, purpose-built cells on two of the accommodation units, and two three-bed cells on one other accommodation unit.

    The visitors centre at Erlestoke Prison has a refreshments facility, as well as a children's play area with a crèche operating at weekends.<<

    Best of luck with the move Ben, I hop ethat the next one will be to the outside.

  19. Kevin Webster,

    You're right regarding proving positive for opiates on arrest for shoplifting not leading to charges - but you will be required to keep an appointment with a drug worker - failure to keep that appointment is a criminal offence - even if you are not charged with the shoplifting offence! Now that's an abuse in my book!

  20. Good luck Ben at Erlestone. Keep your head down and some of the comments from anonymous people are ignorant so just ignore them. You have served your time and shown you have a lot of decency in you - so we await your release with hope. Keep writing and get that PHD soon.

  21. @ anon 9.21

    Ben did not 'bring' a phone into prison, ever wondered how it got in there? Statistics show that appx 40/45% of all goods (including mobile phones) are smuggled in by friends/family the other higher percentage is smuggled in how? There are a lot of prison officers who enjoy the enhanced rate for bringing in illicit goods. As said in a previous post, a nice little earner!!

    Maybe if prisoners weren't charged daylight robbery rates (SEVEN times the normal cost of a landline call) there would be no need to make use of them to keep in touch with loved ones. Loss of liberty is the punishment for his and anyone els's crime, I think 30 odd years is long enough, especially the 20 years which are over tariff.

    ps. Good luck at the new place Ben.

  22. @queenie it was me Anon June 23, 2011 who commented earlier. My own experience with phoning anyone was not only the cost involved but the regime. I vaguely remember that making a phonecall involved some sacrifice or another, cold food perhaps, no choice left, or standing in a long queue.

    And who was it who mentioned hygene?

    Are you kidding me? If most people who had never experienced prison had a look at the state of a typical cell's toilets they would vomit.

    You commentors who make Ben out to be some sort of person who deserves to be locked up way over his tarrif for not adhering to your spitefuil regimes need to take a good long hard look at yourselves because as far as I'm concerned, in this case you are nothing more than child abusers.

    You failed him 30 years ago and you are stll failing him today.

  23. Well said, Francois, and Anon above. As for the 9.21 Anon: where does hygene come into it?!

  24. @Anon June 24, 2011 9:09 Forcebly Pinning a 15 year old down and shaving him citing the reason as hygene or have I misread?

  25. The reason was non-compliance. Nothing to do with hygiene.