Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Last Post?

That the Ministry of Justice and Prison Service have embarked on a course of activity in an effort to disrupt my blog only reinforces my view that I was right to intrude on the public. That they have the brass neck to portray themselves as guardians of the law whilst traducing it reveals the very underbelly of criminal justice morality that my blog wishes to illustrate.

In 2008, the justice minister Maria Eagle told MP Sion Simon that prisoners could blog, subject to the rules of correspondence. Yet despite my complying with the law and ministerial pronouncements, the prison service is now reverting to old habits – attempting to squash the vocal dissenter.

With perceptively cynical foresight, this last post is one of the first written. Having 30 years experience of the mendacity of my keepers, I supply this to John Hirst to distribute in the event of my blog being molested by officialdom. Whether my keepers succeed in their sordid effort is now a question to be answered by my determination and a chunk of legal aid money. And I am very, very determined.

I feel moved to blog because of the quality of public debate around prisons and prisoners. The debate is sterile, a dance conducted around stereotypes and tabloid campaigns, whose sole affect has been to relegate criminals to sub-humanism status and shift policy to reactive short termism. The results have been a disaster, with no constituency being happy with the criminal justice systems.

Giving a human face to criminality can only help inform and challenge popular conceptions. And as an individual I sharpen contrasts and undermine common beliefs with a vengeance. I was a boy when I committed my crime. I handed myself in to the police, pleaded guilty in court. That was the sole act of violence in my life and my revulsion of my crime is a permanent stain on my spirit. I have also tasted the bitterness of being a victim – my teenage sister was killed. From being uneducated I have sweated to the stage where I am now researching towards my PhD. That biography defies stereotyping.

That I am 20 years over tariff only adds to the moral and legal complexity of my blogging. My punishment ended at 10 years, my legal debt to society discharged. Legally and morally I am in a far stronger position to stand up in public than most lifers. Few of my peers can claim these life experiences and fewer still willing to step forward. Someone needs to and if this is read, then clearly my intrusion into the bloggersphere had an effect.

Throwing citizens into prison, placing the whole weight of the state on their neck behind closed doors, is a power that should be exercised with some deliberation. Instead, it has become a mindless political reflex. For far too long, society has abdicated its responsibility to give these profound matters due consideration. For even longer, political leaders and opinion formers have avoided the necessity to base policy on a footing firmer than the approval of tabloids.

I am arrogant, stupid and despairing enough to place myself full in the public firing line in an attempt to shatter the current morass of waffle. Who better than a reformed murderer to step forward and challenge for a debate? My blog is a verbal, moral and intellectual slap in the face, an attempt to shake people out of their complacent bigotries before inviting them to think.

In reducing discussions to trite slogans and vote grubbing sound bites we debase ourselves as a collective and as people. I realise that I pose a challenge, but regardless of any efforts expended by the government I am not going away. Welcome to the debate.

With thanks to the Guardian Online, who published this article yesterday http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/14/prison-blogging-law


  1. There were some idiot comments in the Guardian but this one by Militent is worthy of reposting here...

    Well, I am amazed at the absolute hatred and downright sadistic comments and opinions voiced by people who would describe themselves as innocent, law abiding and morally holding the high ground. Just reading the comments makes my blood run cold. Hardly gives any of you the right to call yourselves human, never mind decent people, carrying on like blood thirsty lynching mobs! You should be ashamed of yourselves. Ben wants to start a serious debate on the politics of imprisonment. Why can't he do that? Surely you are not judging him by what he has done? This would be a poor indicator of who he is. Maybe you all know him then and are able to say that he should rot in jail (only because this annoying 'democracy' doesn't permit actual torture otherwise I suspect you'd be all for it) because of WHO he is?
    I guess not. I guess you don't know him. You just make a quick, final, draconian and inhuman judgment in relation to someone you don't know (some of you don't even know what Ben's crime was and one of you made the beautiful assumption that his victim was female! That was for you MiskatonicUniversity). This says a lot more about you than it does about Ben.
    I say you as a generic determinant because the majority of the comments says exactly the same thing and expresses the same nasty sadistic and virulent sentiments. Not sentiments I wish to be associated with.
    I happen to know Ben. He is bright, caring and funny. He is also very interested in the political aspects of imprisonment, something which happens to hit at the core of a so called civilised society. His analysis is sound and very interesting, only if you can get passed the very superficial reactions the majority of you have had, namely, kill the murderer! Maybe none of you can do that? (I am not here speaking about those of you who have been at pains to point this out, without any hope of a real debate taking off). Michel Foucault did it before him, among others.
    Start a real debate, with real thoughts. Should we have prisons at all? Why do we need punishment in a society which prides itself on being democratic? How do we get to the stage where our children learn self respect and personal responsibility so that they don't grow up in a mess with little or nothing that they can call their own? How do we improve the human condition, altogether, so that misery, abuse, neglect and cruelty can become things of the past?
    Plenty of misery, abuse, neglect and cruelty in prisons. Abuses of power, constantly. No recourse for the prisoners. So some have a TV and a playstation. What a moronic thing to say that it is a toss up whether it's best to be in prison with internet access or to be free without. 1) prisoners DO NOT HAVE access to the internet in cell or generally. 2) Prisons are HORRIBLE places where abuses of power and petty demands are made all the time, autonomy is taken away completely and one's life is controlled entirely at all times.
    What do you want from Ben? That he crawls up to you and begs for forgiveness and mercy before he is allowed to speak his mind? Yep, just what I thought, you have no humanity in you.

  2. I really hope this isn't the last post.
    At least though enough people have paid attention for it to reach the national press - surely a positive sign?

  3. I wish I could say I was surprised at most of the comments on your post but just look at the comments on articles on any newspaper and they sentiments seem come from the id.

    I am glad Jailhouselawyer higlighed Millietant's comment. There were a number of reasoned views but not many sadly.

    I hope that you blog can continue. It does not make for comfortable reading but it it well written and thought provoking. If it can help some people think a little bit more rationally about the administration of criminal justice then that can only be a good thing

  4. I too really hope you can continue to blog. Keep fighting!

  5. I too sincerely hope this blog isn't contained, censored, disallowed. I worked for a while with an organisation producing a great publication BY prisoners, FOR prisoners, in their own words and it was a fantastic achievement, long may it last. It's truly disgraceful when judgmental lynching takes over from compassion, understanding and hope. I only just discovered this blog and I'm truly sad if it stops before I even got to here Ben's points, which he clearly is more than able to articulate with reason and understanding. For those who point the finger, remember there's always ten pointing back. CB

  6. If there is any help that an ordinary, semi-unemployed citizen, of alleged good moral standing but with a certain amount of spare time can do, please do let me know by comment either here or on my blog. Even if it is just to write some letters, hassle an MP or two.

    If serious moves are being made to shut Ben down then that is a disgrace. Is it possible to tell us what is happening, how they are going about the censorship? If so there might be someone reading who can suggest a solution.

  7. Could not find a suitable section so I written here, how to become a moderator for your forum, that need for this?

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