Saturday, September 5, 2009

Should prisoners be allowed to blog?

That's the wrong question, really. As long as I don't identify staff or cons, charge money, or rabbit on about guns, bombs or escape plans then the law allows me to inflict myself upon you for as long as I want. Some would find this objectionable. Whilst I appreciate that view, my response is - tough, deal with it. As a matter of law, my punishment was the loss of my physical liberty; not the loss of anything else. And you need to endure that to appreciate its weight. Having a Blog or a TV doesn't quite make up for loss of liberty. But we are not really talking law here, but more a sense of morality. Should a convicted murderer ever intrude into the public arena? I blame you that I feel the urge to. I don't write this to feed my giant ego. I write this because there is a total absence of genuine, informed debate around imprisonment. The ether is swamped with trite opinion, fuelled by a mixture of bile, anger and ignorance, and some occasional thoughtful interjection may be useful. Who better to offer that than a serving prisoner, whose life's work has been the study of prisons? On a wider point, don't forget that I remain a part of society. I may be tucked away in an obscure and dull corner, but nevertheless prisons are part of the whole. Every law, every social obligation and each cultural and politico-economic shift falls as heavily upon me as it does the free person. As a sovereign individual in a liberal democracy I assert an untrammelled right to voice my views. There are those who will instantly argue that my first post should be a profound apology to my victims. And that I should stop at that point. Patience, my enemies, I will of course discuss these things. And my lifetime’s effort to live a non-¬violent life may suggest that I do recoil from my crime and intend to try, no matter how futile it is, to repair some of the social harm that I have caused. But I refuse to be defined solely in terms of my crime and my past. In the meantime, I hope to inform, provoke and entertain by offering insights into imprisonment that our Glorious Leaders and media fail to deliver. Imprisonment should be a perpetual discussion; the human suffering that follows from crime should be carefully considered, and not relegated to atavistic headlines. Isn't it rather pathetic that it is left to a prisoner to call for this debate, rather than political leaders?


  1. Of course prisoners should be allowed to blog. Prison Service Order 4411 para 7.2, which purports to prohibit such is not worth the paper it is printed on.

    In my view, Article 10 of the European Convention states it is a human right to freedom of expression. What you are doing is only expressing an opinion within that rule. And, of course, PSO 4411 in that respect is in violation of the Human Rights Act 1998.

    If you can telephone the media, a right I won for prisoners in the High Court, progressing to the new media via the internet is no different.

  2. The state has rightly taken your physical liberty but you are still of our society and as such your views are as relevant as those of any other.


  3. Indeed you should, for our entertainment if nothing else. Since you probably have more time to think of something interesting to say, perhaps less opportunity to waste making inane postings and more wit than many people who blog I would go further and say that you should be encouraged to blog.

    That is to say nothing of any enlightenment provided by intelligent writing from your ... unusual ... situation and any improvements in your prospects afforded by wider contact with the outside world.

    The greatest benefit of Web 2.0 (sorry - I really hate that term but I cannot think of any other way to express my point) is the opportunity to make contact with a variety of people which would never happen any other way. I look forward to reading more.

  4. Introduced to this via Twitter. I see you have other posts which I will read.

    My initial comments are that I find the thought that a 14 year old convicted and incarcerated beyond the recommended years, has something about it that beggars more questions I am guessing than answers - right now anyways.

    As to should you or shouldn't you post, you have rights. Even as a convicted prisoner. So its a moot point.

    oh and any chance of paragraph breaks for easier reading?

    Just sayin' :)

  5. I have just looked at your 'About Me' and I am wondering if you feel able to share on your blog why have served 30 years for a recommended 10 year sentence?

  6. Good to see you out in the blogosphere Ben, even if it is at once removed.

    Yes of course they should be allowed to blog but its not really an option that is open to them as they don't have personal access to the internet, even when working for Summit Media (EMAP - e-mail a prisoner, doesn't count).

    The other thing is that blogs by-and-large are ego-splints for sad bastards with not much else to do (and I include myself in that) or people with an axe to grind who think that the odd individual out there may come across it and find it enlightening (ditto). Your's, despite having time on your hand following an unfortunate work-related joke that wasn't appreciated by the powers that be, is in the later category.

  7. You appear to have caused a slight ruffle in the right-wing blogosphere.

    Iain Dale, who writes a very popular Conservative blog is uncertain but dubious. The writer of Letters From A Tory thinks certainly not. A Very British Dude has has written in favour. My blog is far less popular than those, but I have expressed the same opinion as I did above.

    The outside world is noticing you.

  8. My brother does his best work in jail. It seems a shame to let his creative abilities go to waste.

  9. Read this post in the Independent yesterday and found it a relief to read something on the prison system which finally sounds informed and educated.

    You're within your rights, educating others and providing a useful voice to the country. I'd say you're not just entitled to do it, but we, the rest of the country, should be grateful for it. Keep it up.

  10. Read your words in Guardian CiF today and found them no more or less offensive than the rest of the self-important commentators there, so blog away my friend.

    Though a word to the wise: phrases like "I blame you that I feel the urge to." is never a great phrase to find it's way in front of a parole board, right up there with "You make me do this to you" ;o)

  11. I have just discovered your blog in the past hour; I have only had the opportunity to read a few of your post but would like to thank you for what you write.
    I am currently studying Criminology and about to start writing a dissertation on the subject of prisons and punishment. I look forward to reading your blog and hope that you continue to write as often as you can.

  12. I have heard a rumour that you read The Telegraph and The Mail every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Does this tell us about your political convictions?


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