Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meanderings on my Meanderings

I do seem to have abrogated my remit to entertain of late. Writing this is a difficult balance, I always intended to be educational, provocative and entertaining in broadly equal measure.

There are periods, though, when I pass through phases of seriousness, when my attention is all wrapped up in the politics of imprisonment. You have had to bear the burden of that focus in recent weeks and those of you who just enjoy prison adventure stories have been left out. Sorry.

With the election on the horizon then the prisoners vote case is taking on some urgency and that has coloured my writing. The drivel that politicians spout also takes on an added weight - these witless gits could be calling the shots on prisons for the next few years and so they are important in my little world.

And I am embroiled in my usual prison politics, debating within the small community of radicals whether my position as head of the prisoners union - and its agenda - is radical enough. That we are trying to force the government to comply with a legal judgement that they have ducked for five years is pretty important in the scheme of things, especially as we plan to screw a bucket load of compensation out of them. Your money, I'm afraid.

We did explore trying to injunct the general election, to prevent it happening at all until the prisoners votes issue was resolved but the intricacies of our constitutional arrangements stymied that plan. It is the Sovereign who dissolves parliament and sparks an election, not the government, and the Queen can't be sued. So we are looking at a compensation claim instead and after the election we will challenge its legality. There are also petitions and claims before the Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe. This is something I spend a lot of time on as, apart from anything else, it's rather important that the government that locks me up also complies with the law.

End result, not very entertaining stuff for you to read! And somewhere amongst all of this activity, a campaign to shift me towards the gates a bit quicker has quietly began.

I took a decision when I began this blog that it would not be particularly focused upon me and my case. Obviously, I would intrude in the sense of illustrating some broader point through my own experience, but I was not going to start a 'free Ben blog'. It is far more important to start a wide debate about prisons than to plead my own case.

That said, a kindly soul on far flung shores did begin the Free Ben Facebook page and I am very grateful for that support! And the Ministry of Justice has had the sense to leave it unmolested. What we need now are people to fire into the Chair of the Parole Board, demanding that they give me the hearing they have been promising for months on end. But the blog will not focus on these personal things, as I fear it would then become self-serving and lose any wider relevance. So to keep an eye on how I and my progress are developing (or not), keep an eye on the Facebook pages. That said, the Editor will post short updates here and there on the blog.

The Donate button wasn't my idea either, honest! The Ministry of Justice takes a dim view of prisoners earning money (unless it is for the Ministry...) and so when it was brought to my attention that some people wanted to help me out, I avoided the issue. The Editor took a more robust line and legal advice is that, if people want to donate me a few quid, then it's all legit.

And it's very welcome. Having been unemployed for a year I'm scraping the bottom of the bin for stale bread and the like. Stamps and stationery alone cost a small prison fortune. I thank all of you who have helped in this way. Be reassured that you are not funding a perpetual party but rather my stationery, caffeine and nicotine addictions and the odd foray into indulging in a packet of biscuits on rare occasions.

I am truly grateful to all who are supporting me in their own ways, and particularly who support my release. This is all more than I hoped for when I began writing - I was just hoping that someone would read this now and then!


  1. Hello Ben, reading your recent posting left me with a sense of how dis-empowering your situation must be. I was about to post a "stick with it" message, but then realised you have little option but to do so.

    Reading your blog has lead me to consider the true nature of prison as a punishment.

  2. I wouldn't worry about not "entertaining" in a narrow sense. You write so well and about such important topics that it is always a pleasure to read your thoughts.

  3. Hi 'ben' i bet this is one hell of a shock for you to read something printed off from your brother that has had no contact with you for practically the whole time of your incarceration. yesterday i sent a personel letter to Sir David Latham urging him to get you a parole hearing. Its the least i could do and the more people out there that also contact him the better. Andrew

  4. Ben, you can 'meander' for as long as you wish - it is good reading and very enlightening at times. Be better if you were out to do your 'meandering' though.

    Keep writing and reading what we write so that you know we are supporting you.

    Is Andrew above your brother?

    I still want to know when your birthday is.

  5. Jo, yes it is his brother - amazing, isn't it? And it's 10/8/65, Leo.

  6. Just keep writing whatever you feel like writing, Ben.


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