Saturday, March 13, 2010

Stubborn or Innocent?

The popular imagination has it that swathes of prisoners insist on their innocence. Not for the first time, the popular imagination is wrong.

There are innocent people in prison, enough to make those informed or caring enough to worry about our judicial system. But it isn't a majority disease.

Whenever someone tells me that they are innocent, I tend to let it wash over me. Maybe they are, maybe they're not, and either way their daily life is the same.

But rather arbitrarily, I take the view that anyone who is still protesting their innocence after ten years is either genuine or crazy.

By the ten year mark we all know that protesting innocence is a guarantee to a long, long stay in prison. It is long enough for those who initially claimed innocence as a trial ploy to come to terms with their guilt and admit it.

So if a man tells me, ten years in, he is innocent then I am likely to believe him. For what that's worth.

That said, though, there are isolated cases where a man's denial of the crime is a huge personal, emotional investment. He may have persuaded his family, his partner, his children, that he is innocent and that the trial verdict was perverse.

They stick with him, supporting him emotionally and financially, struggling to keep their lives normal whilst campaigning on his behalf.

These people, these guilty people, find themselves dug into a hole from which they cannot escape. To do so would be to risk destroying the whole edifice they have created around themselves. It would be to risk losing their family.

There are times when being genuinely guilty, like myself, is a small comfort.


  1. looks like its all about being truthful... or not... and facing the possible consequences in the end.

    the world does need a reminder that if we set up an atmosphere based on pseudotruths.. one day it may just collapse! thanks for your reminder though! =D

  2. I treated myself to watch again last night Shawshank Redemption. I laughed again at the in joke "We're all innocent in here".

    When Red says "Prison is no fairytale", I thought about The Fear Factory, which commissioning editors state is in need of dilution because it pulls no punches. Who do these jerks think they are to whitewash the truth to benefit a live a lie world?

    I recall walking the exercise yard with the Birmingham 6, Guildford 4, etc, and just knowing that they were innocent. The real guilty, the IRA, formed an inner circle, and there was an obvious command structure. The B6 and G4 were part of an outer circle comprising of sympathizers to the IRA cause.

    I recall the Free George Davis campaign, and being in the same jail as George Davis. One day, George was getting into a bit of a tizz as he proclaimed his innocence to a table of gangsters. After awhile one of the gangsters stopped George in his tracks when he stated "You're forgetting something George, I was there!".

    Whilst there is a clear difference between the innocent and the guilty. There is less of a distinction between who is a political prisoner and who is purely a prisoner serving a sentence for a criminal offence. Even those who are serving sentences for a crime can become political prisoners depending upon their treatment meted out by the State.


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