Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Man with A Problem

You probably won't know the name John Bowden, unless you take a particular interest in the radical edge of prison politics. A fellow lifer, he remains in prison having being imprisoned the same year I began my sentence.

John is a highly vocal, politicised, man. Whenever I sat and listed those few prisoners who were publicly and consistently critics of the prison system - never more than a handful - John was at the top.   He writes for a different audience than myself, and does so eloquently from a differing ideological stance. John has always deserved a wider audience.

The prison system has made him pay for his criticism. A brief whizz with Google will reveal the rather extraordinary shennanigans he has endured in recent years.

This blogpost is highlighting the most disturbing new development - the use of secret evidence to the Parole Board by the Prison Service. I incklude what John himself has explained about the situation below. I just want to add that this is a disturbing development; that the prison service is attempting to use John's perfectly legitimate written criticism as an excuse to keep him imprisoned. It could so easily have happened to me.

John's latest follows here:


"It is relatively rare that prisoners, originally sentenced for non-political offences, become so politicised whilst in jail, that their release is opposed by the prison authorities for exactly that reason.

In the case of life sentence prisoners who have served the “tariff” part of their sentence (or the length of time the judiciary stipulates they should remain in jail), the legal criteria determining their release, or not, are clear and straightforward: Has the prisoner served a sufficient period of time to satisfy the interests of punishment and retribution? Does the prisoner remain a risk to the community? Can the prisoner be safely and effectively supervised in the community post-release?

Of course the prison authorities would never openly admit that apart from the above criteria, there is another “risk factor” that would prevent a life sentence prisoner’s release: Their identification with a progressive or radical political cause. Opposing a life sentence prisoner’s release, purely on the basis of their having exposed and organised against human rights abuse in the prison system, would of course make a complete mockery of the claim that, apart from its punishment function, prison also exists as a place of reform and rehabilitation, a place where supposedly brutal and anti-social criminals are made better people by a system administered by humane and just-minded individuals. The entire legitimacy of the prison system is based on the premise that, essentially it exists to protect the public from individuals who represent a threat , so denying that some life sentence prisoners are kept locked-up solely because they embrace an ideology that actually believes in a society and world free from violence, exploitation, and inequality, is imperative if the myths and fallacy used to justify the existence of prisons is to remain intact.

The prison system actually employs a whole legion of compliant ‘Criminal Justice’ system “professionals”, like social workers, probation officers, and psychologists to provide, if necessary, the politically neutral lexicon of “risk-factors” and “Personality Disorder” to legitimize the continued imprisonment of life sentence prisoners, who in reality are viewed as politically motivated and likely to become politically involved on the outside if released. The narrative of my own life and experience from brutalised and violent young criminal to politically conscious prisoner activist, and how the prison system continues to respond to that, is illustrative of how that system actually considers politicised life sentence prisoners far, far more worthy of continued detention than those who might genuinely pose a risk to the community.

In 1982, I was sentenced, alongside two other men, to life in prison for the killing of a fourth man during a drunken party on a South London council estate. At the time, I was 25 years old, and a state-raised product of the care and “youth justice” system. The prison system that I entered in the early 1980’s was a barbaric and de-humanising place, where in terms of the treatment of prisoners, the rule of law stopped dead at the prison gate. My almost immediate response to prison repression was one of total defiance and resistance, that was met with physical and psychological brutality in the form of regular beatings, (in 1991 a civil court in Birmingham found that prison guards in the notorious Winson Green jail had subjected me to a sustained and gratuitous beating-up within minutes of my arrival at the jail), and many years held in almost clinical solitary confinement. Far from breaking my defiance, such inhuman treatment only deepened my determination to fight the system, and to use the only method truly effective in that regard – solidarity with other prisoners. As the years passed, I began to politically contextualise the struggle I was involved in against the prison system, and understand it as a part of a much wider struggle that transcended prison walls and essentially characterised all societies and places where the powerful brutalised and de-humanised the powerless.

The length of time that my original trial judge recommended I should remain in jail has now long passed, and yet I remain in a maximum security prison, and what can best be described as a campaign by the prison system to keep me here intensifies with the approach of my second parole hearing in over 30 years.
It is essentially my contact with prisoner support groups on the outside, or “subversive” and even “terrorist” groups, as the prison authorities have defined and described them, that is now claimed in some prison system reports, as the main “Risk-Factor” preventing my release. Of course , if necessary, for the purpose of officially legitimising my continued imprisonment, for the convenience of the Parole Board, the usual array of morally compromised and corrupt social workers and prison-hired psychologists will attest to the fact that my enduring “anti-authoritarianism” is just a symptom of my psychopathy and continuing risk to the public. But if there are any doubts that I remain in prison, first and foremost, because of my efforts to expose the prison system for what it truly is, then a document sent to the Parole Board by the Scottish Prison Service on the 2nd December last year, lays them firmly to rest.

The document, an “intelligence report” compiled by the Security Department at Shotts Prison in Lanarkshire, was comprised of two parts, one that I was allowed to read, and another part described as “Non-Disclosure”, which means secret information that I would not be allowed access to. It is rare for “Non-Disclosure” intelligence reports to be submitted to the Parole Board, and it represents a total negation of any pretence of open and natural justice, very much like the secrecy employed to imprison “terrorist suspects” without legal due process. Obliged as it is to officially inform prisoners if “Non-Disclosure” evidence is to be used against them at parole hearings, I received a letter from an “Intelligence Manager” at Shotts Prison in late December of last year, informing me that a portion of “intelligence” on me was so detrimental to “public interest” if it was revealed that it had to be kept secret. I was, however, informed that the “intelligence” related to articles written by me that were critical of the prison system and then placed on political websites. One seriously wonders how the posting of articles and information on the internet that expose abuses of power by the prison system, would so endanger “public interest”, unless of course we replace “public interest” with the more precise “state interest”. The purpose behind the use of “Non-Disclosure” evidence in my case is obvious – To convey to the Parole Board the clear message that my current “risk” is not so much about a danger to the public, but much more about my willingness to publicly expose the brutal nature of the prison system, with the assistance of “subversive groups” on the outside. The part of the “Intelligence Report” that I was allowed full access to confirms this.

Virtually every single one of the “entries” in the part of the report I was allowed access to focuses on what it describes as my “internet activity” and links to “subversive groups” on the outside:

“Bowden continues to leak information through a social networking site.”

“Website features articles relating to Bowden asking people to protest and fight for freedom.”

“Bowden continues to be involved in internet activity and there are plans to have a day of action in support of Bowden.”

“Intelligence provides that Bowden sends correspondence out of prison that is then posted on the internet.”

There is also a reference to what was described as my attempt to set up a debating society in the prison’s Education Department to “platform his current political views, which are focused on poverty.”

This is the evidence that the prison system claims justifies my continued detention after more than three decades in prison. Not a single entry in the “intelligence report” suggests I pose a genuine risk to the community or am likely to re-offend in a criminal way, and yet the Parole Board, a wholly white middle-class body, will inevitably rubber-stamp my continued imprisonment in compliance with the prison system’s wishes.

The two men who were originally imprisoned with me in 1982 were released almost twenty years ago, and I, as a direct result of my struggle to empower and organise prisoners in defence of their basic human rights, remain buried in a maximum security jail, probably until I die.

I will of course continue to write and distribute articles exposing and criticising the brutality of prison as a weapon of social control and ruling class violence, and also highlighting my own victimisation as a consequence of that.

John Bowden"

Source: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2013/01/505362.html

There are very, very few prisoners who have the stones to persistently criticise the prison system in public. The group has never comprised more than a handful, and each pays a price. They do society a service, in challenging the dominant discourse and attempting to drag the secluded world of prison into the light of public scrutiny.

To attempt to continue their detention for their activities is a repugnant outgrowth of the prison services' need to control and subjugate. It is a matter that should concern us all.

I encourage readers to disseminate this blogpost as widely as possible.

55 comments:

  1. A SADISTIC killer who cut up a man with a saw while he was alive is on the run after being allowed to go shopping.

    John "Ginger" Bowden, 51, was allowed the trip as part of his training for freedom - despite showing traces of cocaine in a prison drugs test.

    And the decision by the killer - who was given a life sentence in 1982 - to go on the run has puzzled prison insiders, as he was due to go before a parole hearing which could have won him freedom in just a few days.

    Ian McGregor, governor of Noranside Prison, near Brechin, Angus, is understood to have allowed the shopping trip as the drugs test was not totally conclusive.

    A prison source said: "Bowden had asked for a second test. Even if that proved positive it wouldn't necessarily have affected his parole hearing, but absconding will. "

    Bowden's suitability for parole was reviewed a year ago because of his contact with the group Anarchist Black Cross - who campaign for the abolition of the prison system.

    Bowden, who has written for the group's website, blames the brutalising effect of the penal system for the "senseless" murder of park-keeper Donald Ryan, 49.

    Mr Ryan was lured to a flat in London by Bowden and two other men and knocked unconscious. He was put in a bath and dismembered with a saw and a machete while alive.

    Bowden spent 18 months on the run after escaping while on compassionate home leave in 1992.

    But he was sent back to jail after being caught for dole fraud and identified by his fingerprints as a prisoner on the run.

    He went on to marry secretary Alice Still, then 42, who he met during his escape.

    But the prison source said they had separated some time ago.

    Bowden was moved to open prison conditions last year and has been on regular home leaves.

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    1. That was then, this is now, so what is your point? That it is okay to detain people for their political dissent?

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    2. 'That was then' wasn't so long ago; he last absconded in 2008....

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    3. And he has served his time for that, hence the parole hearing. So I repeat my question - is it okay to detain people for their legitimate dissent?

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  2. "Within a year of being sentenced I was involved in a highly publicised hostage taking incident at Parkhurst Prison when an assistant governor was seized in protest over the murder of a prisoner in the hospital wing. I was sentenced to an additional ten years imprisonment, on top of life, and buried in solitary confinement for over four years."

    http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/05/369954.html

    Sorry Ben but this is a difficult one to support, and this is coming from someone who was fully behind getting you out of prison as soon as possible.

    He's added hostage-taking and prison escapes to his record since being inside - no wonder his fellow defendants were released years ago, whereas he's been kept locked up.

    I'm not personally troubled by his involvement with anarchist groups, but it's far from the same political activism as yours, which was founded on strong principles of non-violence. There's a stark contrast between the two.

    Ben, when you publicise fellow prisoners can you please make sure that you present the full facts? There's a lot more to John Bowden's case than your post contained.


    Otherwise, hope you're keeping well Ben, and keep up the good work.

    Andy.

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    1. You have his name and Google, I refuse to spoon-feed people.

      By definition, as a Lifer JB has committed a horrible crime. And that is neither here nor there in this debate. At the moment, the fact that he is a political campaigner and vocal critic of the prison system is being used to deny him freedom. This is abhorent.

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    2. Anarchist Black Cross mission statement ... "We believe, as most Anarchists do, that prisons serve no useful function and should be abolished along with the state. We believe in the abolition of both the prison system and the society which creates it. We believe in direct resistance to achieve a stateless and classless society. We share a commitment to revolutionary Anarchism. We see a real need for Anarchists to be militantly organized."
      Yeah, of course he's ready for release; he's a violent man with radical views, the Parole Board are being grossly unfair in continually refusing his release............... Is it ok if he moves in next door to you though Ben?

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    3. The ABC are a legal and legitimate campaigning collective and they do not advocate violence.

      You think he should be kept inside for his radical views- and I think there's a totalitarian State somewhere who could use you as a secret policeman.

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    4. The Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) is an anarchist politics support organization. The group is notable for its efforts at providing prisoners with political literature, but it also organises material and legal support for class struggle prisoners worldwide. It commonly contrasts itself with Amnesty International, which is concerned mainly with prisoners of conscience and refuses to defend those accused of encouraging violence.[1] The ABC openly supports those who have committed illegal activity in furtherance of revolutionary aims that anarchists accept as legitimate.[2]


      Non violent collective eh?

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    5. Please try to read what I write and not what you wish I wrote... I said the ABC "do not advocate violence". And so we are left with a guy who supports a non-violent radical political collective, with the State attempting to keep him in prison for his views.

      I assume you have taken the trouble to read some of JB's writing and views before taking your repugnant stance of banging someone up for their politics?

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    6. He's banged up because if his murder, his absconds and his hostage taking..
      Sorry if that's an inconvenient truth

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    7. I love it when people are so certain in their stance even when they clearly know sod all about prison law or parole procedures!

      JB was initially sentenced for murder and then had bits added for his acts over the years. But those sentences have expired and his murder tariff a distant memory. The test for his detention now, in law, is whether he poses a risk to life or limb.

      And his politics is being used against him, in a secret oprocedure which prevents him challenging the claims.

      That, my ignorant commentator, is the truth of it.

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  3. I know John, having wrote to him a few times a while back while he was in Shotts, I am pleased to hear he is now in an open jail and has home leave regularly. He is a man with problems that is for sure, like many people. His research and concern around the facts surrounding mentally ill people being treated in jails is helpful to all who are fighting injustice. So as most people are a mixture of good and bad, so too is John. It was a terrible crime he committed and there are and possibly always will be some issues for him that he will have to look at and address, as with Ben, as with us all. But as a society, we can compound injustice and brutality by dismissing and brutalising people rather than trying to help, heal, educate and understand. All the best to John and Ben.

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  4. I've not heard of John Bowden, and given his apparent profile, I am glad Ben has brought this to our attention.

    However, could we possibly have a link to a reliable source on the nature of his original crimes and his record while in prison? I am not convinced that the authorities would continue to detain him simply on the basis that he is a political dissenter. It doesn't make sense.

    I also don't like this idea of knocking the Parole Board as "white and middle-aged". When people lapse into that PC canard, it doesn't endear them to me. The man has committed a serious violent crime and we are entitled to protection from him unless he can demonstrate he no longer presents a general danger - but I think we need more information, and a more balanced picture.

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  5. You have the power of Google at your fingertips, and I assume readers are not lazy.

    I have to say, if you don't believe that political activity is reason for the Parole Board to deny a man freedom, you are grievously misled. With no violence on my prison record, how do you think I served more than triple my tariff???

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    1. Because you were an arsehole in prison, and continue to be so now that you've been released?

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    2. What an ignorant man you are Anonymous 3.23 - ignorant and childish.

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    3. Ben,

      I asked for a link to a "reliable source". Google doesn't necessarily help in that respect. It is not lazy, I think, to request that those who defend Mr. Bowden should justify why. After all, he was convicted of a serious violent crime as an adult. What I have found on the internet does suggest that he was central to a sadistic murder and that he has not been on his best behaviour while incarcerated.

      It seems to me you have chosen to present only one side of the story. His political activity might indirectly have influenced decisions about him, but that may only be because such activity interfered with or inhibited efforts to address with him the offences he had committed. To be fair, the same could apply to you (though I draw no firm conclusions in either case).

      I would maintain that political activity is, and cannot, be a reason to deny parole or remission, but it could legitimately be considered a factor in denying freedom to a violent prisoner if it is felt that such activity reflects on the prisoner's attitude to his crimes and hinders his rehabilitation.

      Obviously your experience and campaigning places you as the expert in these matters, so I'm happy to defer to your better knowledge but those are my thoughts.

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    4. @Anon3.32, you let yourself down there mate. You could have at least made the abuse witty, entertained the readers, but instead you just look a bit pathetic.

      Lazy.

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    5. I agree that the 'anonymous' contributions are just not up to the usual standards. They really need to put that bit more effort in.

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    6. The arsehole comment wasn't abuse.... It's a genuinely held belief about you..... mate

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    7. Now you see this is what I mean. It's this kind of banality that gives trolling a bad name. What you need is that bit of panache.

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    8. Having said that, I do rather admire the way you elide the 'arsehole' epithet from the concept of abuse. Quite adept. Almost Euclidean.

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    9. @Anon 6.24 Im assuming you told me so to my face when we crossed paths or did you hide anonymously even then...?

      Window Warrior....

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    10. I doubt that you would remember whether I did so or not, after all there must be legions of people that you have met that have called you an arsehole.
      Window warrior? Aren't you the fellow that scuttled back into your cell at Bristol in 1990 when the big boys with shields arrived?

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    11. @Anon 2.04, Nope, very few called me an arsehole. And you didn't answer the question....

      Actually, after we took the prison in 1990 the screws took so long to get their act together that a lot of guys went back to bed in the early hours! It was long after that the "big boys" (lol) arrived.

      Close, but no cigar. But thanks for showing your appreciation by perpetually returning to read me....

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  6. @annonymous, spoken like a true screw

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    1. @rachel Stuart .. Spoken like a true convicts tart

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    2. Spoken like a true anonymous Window Warrior....

      Every time you comment you reinforce the worst perceptions of screws. Keep it up!

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  7. This is absolutely ridiculous. Being a pain in the arse is not sufficient reason in itself for the Parole Board to deny either progressive moves or eventual release. A prisoner has to put quite a bit of effort into ensuring they are not released from an indeterminate sentence, whatever Ben may say to the contrary.

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    1. I wish I could form a sentence to put this more politely, but I just can't- that's one of the dumbest things I have ever heard said on the internet. It is a denial of reality as on a scale of stupid that's up there with denying the Moon landings.

      Being "a pain in the arse" is more than enough for the PB to knockback. It will be nicely dressed up in terms to squeeze through a judicial review, but it is sufficient.

      Denying it reveals either a profound ignorance of the prison and parole process or a near-psychotic denial of reality. I am utterly gobsmacked. My lawyers aere in stitches....

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    2. Even more astonishing when written by a supposedly seasoned 'old school' PO - who often claims to have the answers!

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    3. But isn't the point here that if someone is behaving in a way that inhibits their progress towards 'rehabilitation', then that might affect their eligibility for release? You seem to be suggesting that the reason for his treatment is that he is a political activist, whereas in reality the problem may be that his political activity is contributing to a perception that he is not fit for release, which is a different thing entirely.

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  8. 'A prisoner has to put quite a bit of effort into ensuring they are not released from an indeterminate sentence, whatever Ben may say to the contrary.'

    Tell that to all those that are years over tariff simply because the courses they need to be complete before release are not available.

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    1. Darby,

      I guess I should have been rather more specific in referring to life sentences rather than indeterminate sentences generally. You are right in relation to IPP sentences because as you infer, the courses are often not available or can be completed before the tariff date is reached. As you know, tariffs for IPP sentences are often very short - typically 3-5 years or even less in comparison to life sentence tariffs. My comments were directed towards life sentenced prisoners and how they progress towards release.

      I certainly don't have all the answers Darby and neither does Ben. Obviously we both have very different experiences of the criminal justice system, but valuable contributions to make nevertheless in terms of discussion and debate. I think what tires many of us is the level to which that 'debate' descends sometimes, not helped it has to be said by Ben's somewhat deliberately provocative statements and rubbishing of contrary views, experiences and opinions.

      You may not agree with them, but they are nevertheless genuinely held and borne of some years experience of a wide range of offenders and Parole Board hearings. Lets try and keep a reasoned discussion going.

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    2. Granted, 'all the answers' would have been too strong. But I *actually* wrote: 'who *often* claims to have the answers' That being so, maybe something along the lines of; claims to have his finger on the pulse regarding most matters probation, may have been more appropriate.

      I get the impression that you regard me as a bit of a nuisance - with little of value to say. But the bottom line is; my own experience of the system was longer and more colourful than most. So when Ben makes a claim like ‘Being "a pain in the arse" is more than enough for the PB to knockback’ I know that it’s a FACT. Just as I know, when *you* refute such claims; you either haven’t learnt much in all those years behind a desk. Or as Ben says, are in denial.

      I could make valid comments on many more of Ben’s posts, but it’s not my blog and I have no desire to be regarded as a been, seen and done that, kind of poster. Even *if* I have!

      I don’t use facebook, twitter or any other social networking site. And I rarely comment anywhere else (apart from my local paper). I give my tuppence worth on here because it’s very easy to agree (in a few words) with something I know to be fact. I can’t type very quickly (nor concentrate very long!) and consequently, find it difficult to put deeper (more complicated) thoughts to paper. What I don’t find difficult; is to agree with another’s views when *I know* they're are correct.

      Ben tells it as it is.

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  9. Totally off subject - but after all the grief having been experienced by fellow posters and bloggers - do you not think its nice to see that Prison Officers will be losing their jobs? The very way criminals and ex-criminals have been treated, dump them on the wayside, no hope of getting a job etc. etc. Prison officers treat them as no hopers. Personally I think the government have done something right for once. Not that I am - but I would love to see a no longer employed prison officer next to me in the dole queue! That would be fun! Ben you can delete this if you like you know who I am and how strongly my beliefs are, like yours. Perhaps a topic for you to setup a new thread about. Chris B

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  10. @ Chris B ..
    What a dimwitted and puerile post.
    An equally puerile response would be to say that the screw standing next to you in the dole queue would get the job on offer ahead of you every time because he/she hasnt got a criminal record!! the thing is the closure announced yesterday are smoke and mirrors from the Con/Dem coalition. 2600 spaces to close immediately with a vague notion of an additional 3250 spaces to replace them at some point in the future? where will the money come from to fund those new spaces?
    The reality is that all staff at the jails that are being closed will either be relocated at the taxpayers expense or given rather generous pay offs again at the taxpayers expense, some will be able to take their lifetime index linked pensions early if they're over 50 , again at the taxpayers expense. So the chances of seeing them in the dole queue are fairly remote because they'll all have too much cash to qualify for benefits anyway!!
    But that's only the staff that are directly employed; non HMPS employees, such as teachers etc, will be buggered I suppose, although their employers - the colleges that hold the education contracts- will get early termination compensation payments from the MoJ, again courtesy of the taxpayer!!
    Now what about the prisoners ?? For example when Shrewsbury closes 200 sex offenders have got to be dispersed into the remainder of the system; what about OB courses they're part way through? In all 2600 prisoners will be sprinkled here there and everywhere within the system to facilitate these closures. Moved part way through courses, education programmes, hospital treatments etc etc, moved and their families will have to travel to wherever they land up to continue visiting arrangements etc...
    Your schadenfreude is misplaced Chris B; the only people that will suffer from these closure are the taxpayer, and prisoners and their families
    Inner vision

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    1. Ho ho ho. You said screw. Sorry - couldn't resist!

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    2. Yeah; I was quoting the buffoon who wrote the post...
      IV

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    3. Perhaps these out of work screws, can be sent to North Africa, they are sure to go a b--b out there?

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  11. It is interesting how most people (and not just on this thread) constantly return to John's "offending behaviour", the crime he committed and that led to his last incarceration. Yes it was horrific, but it is not, and has not for a long time been, the reason he remains unreleased from prison. Being one of the people labelled as a terrorist by Matt Stillman*, the outside social worker employed the Scottish Prison Service to compile the 2007 parole report on John, someone who has supported him because of his victimisation for his political views (and in spite of what he did 30 years ago), I have some insight on his situation and have in fact had the dubious privilege of reading that particular fabrication.

    Then, just as now, John was in open conditions and allowed home leave i.e. he was considered safe enough to be let out amongst us, the general public. If the Prison Service and its plethora of trainee psychologist had had any concerns about any "offending behaviour" problems or "risk factors" on his behalf, he would not have gotten Category D status (itself clear indication that he is liable to be released on license). Instead, in 2007, they employed an outside (of the Prison Service) social worker to compile a parole report on him once their previously commissioned in-house social worker's report had been found to recommend John's release on license.

    Stillman subsequently complied with SPS's obvious desire to obtain a report hostile to John and stitched him up by claiming that his character [NB not his "offending behaviour"] had not been "sufficiently modified" by his time in prison and that, somehow, his politics posed a "serious risk factor" because of his links with "terrorists" - all this on the basis of 2 short interviews with John, where his only questions were about his links with outside prisoner support groups i.e. nothing about his "offending behaviour" or any real "risk factors". So, having been in an open prison for 9 months and a month before his most important parole hearing to date, on the say so of an non-prison social worker, John ended up in solitary in a maximum security prison cell and subsequently was denied parole, solely on the basis of his politics.

    Now it appears that, given the appearance of a secret annex in his latest probation report, the powers that be have come up with a new route by which they hope to deny him parole. Importantly, the "evidence" therein can only concern "risk factors" that those same powers fear could be successfully challenged in an open hearing, and cannot concern any "offending behaviour" problems that John could notionally address otherwise. Such is the looking glass world of prison 'security'. [See for example http://www.insidetime.org/articleview.asp?a=1381&c=secret_squirrels_at_work]

    Here, we should also note that it is not just John's political views as expressed in outside forums (such as newspapers and on website) that have led to him being banged up well beyond tariff, (just as in Ben's case) it is his activities as a jailhouse lawyer - his particular attempts at showing solidarity with his fellow inmates. The bottom line is that the prison system - the governors, screws and psychologists that run it, do not countenance dissent or accept criticism of what they say or how they behave. And anyone who stands up to the blatant injustice that it regularly metes out is labelled a troublemaker and gets 'knocked back'. Such is the fate of the 'troublemaker' in prison. Or anyone else whose face or politics do not fit.

    continued below:


    *Apparently, in the view of Stillman, I am a "self-proclaimed anarchist" (is there any other sort?) and member of a "group [that] appear to be primarily eco-terrorists or para-military members", an opinion gathered apparently solely from a cursory visit to our website.

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  12. continued from above:

    Which brings us to the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) and the smears against us, and therefore against John. As anarchists, ABC members oppose coercive authority and advocate a non-hierarchical society based on community solidarity, mutual aid and cooperation. More specifically, we support and spread information about some of those prisoners who are sentenced for what we consider political actions (even if we may not actually condone their particular actions), and those who develop a political analysis close to anarchism after being sentenced for other offences (ditto). We do this by writing letters and sending literature to prisoners, organising demonstrations and spreading information publicly. Because of this stance, ABC groups have supported John over the decades for his political stance (even though he is not an anarchist), not what he did to end up in prison, just as ABC groups have supported Ben in the past because of his stand against the crushing stupidity of prison bureaucracy (and that doesn't make him an anarchist either).

    We do this because of a strange concept called solidarity, something that is sadly lacking in the wider society. But, just because we choose to support someone, to show our solidarity with them, it does not automatically follow that we necessarily condone their actions or agree with their rationale for doing carrying it out - one [solidarity] does not necessarily include (or preclude) the other [acceptance of actions]. Our actions do not make us terrorist any more than they do John (or Ben for that matter) any more than a family that sticks by an imprisoned relative who has killed someone makes them murderers.

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  13. A vital step in rehabilitation is the acceptance that you did something wrong. Support for this movement appears to throw all that to the wind. As an example, he describes himself (as was) as "brutalISED". That's passive. It was done to him. Society did it. This is an issue in his rehabilitation, as demonstrated by his support of a radical movement, where the blame for his killing another person, is heaped onto "society".

    Procedurally, it's a shambles, and in and of itself, political activity and/or activism ought not to be a reason for keeping someone locked up. By the same token, if he hasn't been nominally "rehabilitated", a step in which is accepting responsibility, I understand why they aren't ready to let him out.

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    1. It's an interesting point of view - but it's legally wrong. There is no requirement for a prisoner to have "admitted his guilt" or "accepted responsibility" for the Parole Board to release him, nor does accepting same guarantee release - Look at Ben, he pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity yet he was held 200% past tariff.

      Indeed, if I recall correctly, Ben's last knockback in 2010/11 was to test whether or not he was safe for release or was a product of the very system that had kept him inside due to his being "a fully paid-up member of the awkward squad".

      I was bounced between prisons several times for the same reason. On one occasion, when returned to a prison that I could not legally be held in any more by court order, the Ombudsman said "Make a complaint a day, they'll move you within a month". I did and they did... That's how the system works.

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    2. No, but the extent to which a person is considered "dangerous" is partly based on factors such as the prisoner's successful rehabilitation - if a person was dangerous and has not been rehabilitated, they are still dangerous.

      You were bounced between prisons. There's a difference between being moved and being let out.

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    3. Just out of interest - I don't know you, and vice versa - are you a fan of the "Life Means Life" concept of indeterminate sentencing in the UK?

      The issue I have is this. The test for parole is simple for Lifers, even Murderers. It's known as a "life and Limb" test - is he likely to cause harm to life and limb. Being a political animal, even denying his offences, is not relevant to the risk. After all, an innocent man cannot re-offend, and a criminal being a politician is not that rare...

      So how do you square the circle that there are innocent men in prison, denying their offences? Do they get punished more? John Bowden is not one of them, and he has long since served his tariff, why should his non-violent activities be held against him.

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    4. Also, in my case, the prison service had no choice but to release me, at the 2/3 point, and to re-release me once the (falsified) new charges were dropped.

      It's also fairly hard to get your "enhanced" IEP as quickly as I did, both times. It took me 91 days from my initial incarceration, and less than 30 from my recall, which should prove something else about how "awkward" I was to the staff, as against the service.

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  14. Personally this john Bowden I feel safer where he is. His loss is the general public gain. Shame they couldn't of executed him. What a nasty excuse for a human being.

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    1. Thank you for sharing that profound analysis of a complex legal, political and moral issue.

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  16. I’ll apologise in advance for the length of this post, but both the Kevin Thakrar, and John Bowden stories ring bells with me....

    I don't know John, and in truth, wasn't familiar with the name before Bens' post. But it’s clear (having read 'Interview With Militant Prisoner' on the Prisoner Support Bristol ABC website) that I was alongside him and about 200 others in Wormwood Scrubs (in the early 1980’s) when we staged a ‘sit down’ and refused to come in from the (exercise) yard - in protest of the (violent) liberties being taken by the screws on the con population in general.

    I was serving a 3 year sentence, of which 2 had to be served before release. If granted parole however, I could hope to get out in 12mths. At the time of the sit-down I had already completed those parole reports and was awaiting transfer from ‘The Scrubs’ to my prison of allocation.

    My own reasons for staying on the yard that day included the fact that I had suffered a good/bad ‘kicking’ at the hands (and boots!) of the Scrubs screws as a Borstal Boy aged 15. In my experience, the Scrubs’ atmosphere was always dominated by an air of menace.

    That particular *battle*(which we initially expected to be crushed by force) was, in my view, ‘won’ by the unflinching demeanor of 200 staunch men; who left the screws in no doubt, that should it kick-off....some of the pain/blood - would (for a change) be their own! I (it has to be said; vaguely) remember the intoxicating sense of victory/solidarity that day; but unbeknown to me, my own *war* had only just begun.

    I have been physically attacked (by my keepers) on numerous occasions. But I believe it was my participation in the (non-violent) sit- down at The Scrubs which would result in the worst of those attacks.

    Within a couple of weeks of moving to my allocation prison I had received my parole answer which was a ‘yes’, the result being: I would serve my last 12mths on parole. I duly sat back to await my release - which was scheduled for 5 weeks time. However, I would soon find myself in much the same position as Kevin Thakrar - in that I would be defending myself from a mob of screws intent on doing me serious harm.

    With about 3wks of my sentence to serve - I was summoned from the yard for a cell search. I had only been in that cell since the previous day and there were certain odds and ends in the drawers from the previous occupant. To cut a long story short, I was placed on report for: The unlawful possession of two tap tops; and excess kit. By the time I saw the governor the next day (incidentally, I was taken straight from the search to the block – when one could usually expect it to be the next morning) the allegation of excess kit had vanished and I faced the governor on the ‘unlawful possession of two tap tops’ charge.
    Continued....

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    1. At this stage I thought that they were looking for an excuse to keep me down the block until my discharge on parole. But unknown to me; their motives were altogether more sinister. The governor informed me that it was his belief that the two tap-tops were to be used as weight in a sock as a weapon – and that he was remanding the case for The Board of Visitors (BOV) as he didn't feel he had sufficient powers to punish me properly. WTF!?.... This was a blatant fit-up!

      I went in front of the BOV on a Wednesday and was scheduled for release the following Thursday. Shortening the story further, I was found guilty and lost 60 days remission. I was informed at the same time that my parole was being sent back to the board with the recommendation of revocation. I was also given 28 days Cellular Confinement (CC) to ponder my lot!

      In effect, I went from ‘getting out next week’ to suddenly having 14mths to do - for no other reason than the petty-mindedness of some vicious thinking screws.

      Before the staff went off duty at teatime that day, a kindly old screw warned me that they were intending to move me to the strongbox when they came back on duty that evening. This, he said: was because of my use of some choice Anglo Saxon terminology I had aimed at the BOV’s (after the fiasco/circus of the adjudication!)explaining why I wasn't happy’ with the sequence of conspiratorial events thus far.

      This decent old boy also told me that a certain dog screw was the instigator of these developments - and that he was basically orchestrating a situation where I could be bashed up. I thanked him for the info (and the freshly lit fag he tossed into the corner as he left!) and frankly, began to worry! Worry then turns to anger.

      This is where I identify with Mr Thakrar: Unless you have sat in a dingy block cell waiting to be attacked by a bunch of goons in uniform – you really have little right to preach how others should act in the same situation. I recall my own emotions being a heady cocktail of fear and rage.

      The details of how that day panned out are not important, but it would result in my waking up – bashed-up - in the segregation block of a prison in the West Country (having been stabbed in the buttocks *and* stomach with a hypodermic needle!) facing 3 assault charges. Those 3 charges would result in me losing another 180 days (6 months!) remission. Overall, my sentence had been extended by about 20mths because of the whims of a wicked few.

      This is why I feel for these men – because (in a way) I've been there. The difference being; I was only ever a short-termer, and (short of killing me – as they have *certainly* done to others!) they had to let me out one day.

      I don’t have the answers that would help right the wrongs of the CJS. But not knowing how to fix something (e.g. a punctured tyre on a bike!); doesn't equate to not knowing what’s amiss!

      Good luck to both Mr Thakrar and Mr Bowden.

      P.S. It’s interesting to note that the governor of Maidstone would (18 odd months) later, give me 6wks ‘back’ after having ‘looked into’ my case.

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  17. I agree with you most of the time Ben but not with this case. I think there is a risk of harm there and, as the PB have to look at his risk of further offending over the whole of his licence - in this case indefinite, the decision not to release is justified. The fact he is a pain in the arse to the MOJ is neither here nor there

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