Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Survival Plan

I know that I exist in a highly privileged position. Few of my counterparts have the audience that I am fortunate to enjoy, which began with the birth of the blog in 2009.

This public platform carries many responsibilities as well as pleasures. One is that I don't cry wolf on my behalf, lest people become very bored and I would loath to abuse my position.

Over the past few years I have had the need, due to dire circumstances, to broadcast some type of Mayday. And that experience has revealed that Criminal Justice decision makers utterly detest having their business hauled into the public eye. The fear of publicity is so great that the Governor of my last posting personally read the blog every day, just in case.

Shining a light on my situation in desperate times has had a significant effect on decisions. The noise made by readers has saved me from getting a kicking on at least one occasion. When I met the Director General last year he complained that I was the guy whose readers were jamming up his Inbox. Happy days....

And now there is this difficulty with Probation. A crisis averted is one less hurdle to overcome and so I squealed loudly once it became clear that a bundle of grief was poised to descend upon me. Your vocal dissent over my position has been heartwarming and effective. Backchannels suggest that any adverse decision is now being pondered and passed by the keener eyes of lawyers.

My firm legal advice is that any restriction ion my public broadcasting would be unlawful and that we would win a challenge. Equally, legal advice is to comply with any restriction until that challenge is won. I am not keen to return to prison, I have to confess. Fascinating though I find the institution and the concept,  loath the actuality and always have. Returning is not a voluntary option.

The Plan, then, is to abide by any restrictions imposed - whilst simultaneously making as much noise as possible, through third parties, and going to the High Court with all haste. The blog, at least, will continue through the efforts of my glorious and mysterious Editor. And any battle will be widely reported.

For the meantime, normal service continues then. Thanks, again, to you.


  1. What has happened to 'free speech' - as long as your blog is not rude, insulting, illegal, etc - where is the problem?

  2. Who do we get in touch with to voice our concerns?

  3. As I said here a few months ago, it's always wise to pick your battles. Sometimes you have to take one for longer-term strategic reasons.

    All the same, as the first poster said, as long as what you say on air or in interviews doesn't breach any actual law, then Probation are just being their usual, cowardly, arse-covering selves.

  4. I spent an additional two years inside for my successful case in the ECHR. Can I prove it? No, the parole panel never referred to it, but a singularly honest probation officer warned me what would happen, even specifying the number of years it would cost me. Once released I lived by the principle that the authorities needed only an excuse (such as disobedience), not a legal reason, to recall me to prison. At that time it was reckoned that a recall would cost at least two years inside. With better things starting to happen in my life, I wished to remain free.

    My warning was probably challengeable because in effect it put pressure upon me to pay a disputed sum of money to the people who ran the hostel where I lived. I decided to go along with it, so far as I understood what the warning amounted to, settled with the hostel after a judgment in the small claims court and, thereafter, I had no problem with probation. I did of course tell my supervising probation officer what I thought of the warning itself.

    If Ben wishes to make a career in challenging the authorities he will probably, in my opinion, have to countenance recall. Compliance may take a little fizz out of his new life, but his less heroic ambitions may be better served thereby.

  5. Hi Ben,
    Gagging continues in most walks of life. The system dislikes people who question. On many an instant I spoke against "invisible" power enjoyed by the probation service and ended up incarcerated for my efforts. Opening up a debate on difficult subjects is hard work and often "the trouble-maker" is punished bad time and the protesting voice echoes only within the confines of the well into which the individual is booted. Ben is right about the collar and chain around the person's neck for life.

  6. The bottom line *should* be; that any 'assignments' Ben is sent on/set by his employers - The Howard League, have already been sanctioned by the fact that Probation approved the job position in the first place.

  7. I'd been thinking along the same lines as Darby. Presumably, any talking head stuff would be ok if done as a representative of the Howard League, since Probation have sanctioned this job? And risky if done as Ben the individual. It would seem politic to discuss this with HL, and/or the PS?

  8. Glorious and mysterious editor????
    Hmmm I can think of plenty of reasons to disagree with that assessment .......

    Inner Vision

    1. Good morning screw. Now let us all wait to see just how low and personal you will go, driven by your hatred.

    2. I think you may have *actually* crossed swords with this dog somewhere on your travels....

      His vitriol is probably a legacy of coming 2nd on that/them occasion/s as well (Smile!)

    3. OK, Ben - some inside information.

      Your "Anonymous" appears to be a screw from Shepton Mallett. I have this on fairly good authority from a tenant who I shared with back in 2008 when he and I were both in Wales.

      Also, he's using MoJ equipment to do it, so I would start IP-Tracking if I was you, as screws are not allowed to make public comment about their work, which is why there are so many "anonymity" warnings on



    4. Doesn't really help Fenrir - do you like twilight?? Suppose so, via it appeals to teenage girls-
      Not a screw
      Not at Shepton
      Not HMP IT equipment .... If you knew anything about their IT equip you'd know that it doesn't allow Internet access....

      Oh Ben, piss poor response to the smoke and mirrors blogpost.... Want me to join in and help get things moving?
      Or are you happy to rely on your scintillating intellect to stimulate the debate that hasn't yet materialised???

    5. @Anonymous 8.49

      That's funny, because the Staff-side kit in prison HAS to have internet access, how else can the screws get to from inside?

      If you say you are not a screw, then come out and tell us who you are. Otherwise, you will remain an anonymous coward. Even I can say I pleaded guilty for my offences.

      Oh, you also need to learn to do maths. If my victim was a teenager in 2006, it's unlikely she still is now. But then screws never could add up. 1 Remand + 2 Convicted = full single man cell!

    6. Some staff do have net access through Quantum. And you are a screw.

    7. Anon 8.49, I write, I post, people comment or not at their whim. All I know is how many people read a post and have never felt the urge to prompt comments for comments sake.

    8. And you are a screw at Shepton - hence the personal digs at those close to me. Only a SM screw would know the background. Busted.

      And revealed as a pathetic POS whose hatred of a successful ex con is so deep that he is willing to abuse a mans partner anonymously. What a piece of work.

      Ladies and gentlemen - you pay this man's wages. Want a refund?

  9. looking like someone has already whooped his/her ass on another thread! I agree with Darby, I would say you and he or her have crossed swords on your travels.

  10. Hi Ben,
    As a Probation Officer (and ex prison officer) myself, I have been following your blog for some time and have been particularly interested to hear about your experiences within the criminal justice system. It is good to get different perspectives on any subject and I have been surprised about some of the things that have happened to you, but not so surprised about others. It is good that others' can hear, first hand, about the difficulties that people face when in prison but also when released. I am often frustrated by these difficulties when trying to help people in prison and after release. The reason for my comment then, is just to say that I have never read anything that you have wrote that would concern me to the point of taking action with regards to your licence and cannot see that there is anything to indicate concerns in respect of an increase in the likelihood of re-offending or risk of serious harm. I certainly hope to keep reading and hearing about your experiences and hopefully your blog/comments will continue to help others (even probation officers).