Saturday, September 1, 2012

Life...Don't Talk To Me About Life....

To say that I knew what my place was in the prison society is to understate the fluidity of the prisoners social structure. Broadly, in many places and for many years, my place was that of being useful to those in some dispute with our keepers - the grubby but vital end of jailhouselawyering.

This fairly constant social status is an important psychological crutch. If one knows ones place in the world, ones purpose, then there is some stability which allows for persistence and survival in the face of adversity.

And now...I find myself adrift. Where is my place in the wider society? Asking this after ten days of freedom may seem a tad premature, I confess, but it is an important point. There are ex-cons aplenty, but very few who have taken up or continued any campaigning role that they may have had behind the walls. Some are swamped by the demands of daily life, others only wish to wash the stench of prison from their lives as quickly as possible.

How large a place prison will have in either my consciousness or my life into this new future remains to be seen. But I suspect that for the foreseeable future, prison and I will remain on close terms of mutual detestation. It is the precise shape that this takes that is as yet unformed and leaves me feeling slightly unsettled.

Should I campaign openly and publicly, join Jailhouselawyer on the TV to mock Andrew Neil's hairdo? Write articles and spread them as widely as possible? Begin a reform campaign group? There are so many possibilities and none are obvious to me as yet.

The debate must continue. That the State holds so many in its dungeons must remain a source of unease on so many levels and the injection of informed comment can only turn a shooting match into a more subtle challenge. I would hope...


  1. Can I kick things off Ben?

    Firstly the very obvious - it's going to be difficult and you'd be well advised I think to mull it over with as many people close to you as possible.

    Secondly don't try and imitate what others are doing - do what you feel comfortable with.

    Thirdly have plenty of time for yourself and your partner and try and do things you both enjoy.

    Lastly, do what you do best and no one else can - that is tell your own story in your own words. Dig out the best of the blog and write a book.



  2. Try not to scale it just in terms of what is...your own wound, to put it glibly.

    The prisons are problematic. Then looking outside that circle, the whole capitalistic structure (ie, a structure where people think somehow a means of living is 'out there' for them, when absolutely no guarantee of such exists - yet people still act as if a promise was made and is being kept) is failing to look after people.

    I guess I'm just saying in finding a niche, don't assume everything outside of that niche is hunky dory.

  3. Hi Ben, off topic herre, but can you do a post of how people in jail get to meet people of the opposit sex, on the out, while in jail. There is a story on the daily mail website today of how the late billionare Eva Ravsing was writing to a lifer at Long Lartin. Just wondered how people whos lives are poles apart get together to have a friendship/relationship, even if it is via letters /visits etc.

    1. A post on this is in progress. Thanks for the idea!

  4. I agree whole heartedly with Jim Brown. A book would be a good idea and a good source of income. Shaun Attwood turned his prison blogs into a book so why not you?

  5. Just think if you had kept your head down and mouth shut you would have been out 20 years ago!

    1. Cooperating quietly because it's in your own best interests is not always the highest good. Many people who risk prison to stand up for their principles are considered heroes after the fact, precisely because they were willing to pay a price for those principles. Now I'm not saying that everyone who goes to, or remains in, prison for ideological reasons deserves respect (white supremacy, among others, springing to mind as an ideal I'm not prepared to give credit for), but the idea that easy compliance is always warranted strikes me as problematic. After all, if Ghandi had just given up on that independent India business and played along with the British, he'd probably have spent less time in prison too.