Monday, April 19, 2010

Risk to life or limb

This is the crux of a lifer's detention once the tariff has expired. On the face of it, it is not unreasonable to keep in prison a person who has killed another until it can be shown that he does not pose a risk to life and limb.

But that bare statement conceals a morass of complexity. In my own case, for example, it is not actually claimed that I pose a positive risk to life and limb. It never has been, in that my crime took place in unique, unrepeatable circumstances.

Rather, it was the view of the Parole Board at the last hearing that I could only demonstrate that I did not pose a risk by being in an Open prison without incident. In essence, the claim is that I will find it so difficult to move back into society that I will blow some mental fuse and go running through the streets wielding am axe.

Note that this argument is not rooted in my original crime, nor does it rest upon any claim that 1 am inherently prone to violence. Rather, it is an assertion that society is so difficult to deal with that I will need to be "tested" - in the twisted way that Open prisons function - to see if society and myself are on a course for a violent collision.

You will appreciate that I feel that this is an utterly pathetic, incoherent reason for keeping me detained. It also reveals a truly frightening lack of understanding of the nature of murder on the part of the Parole Board.

Murderers can be viewed in one of two ways. Either they are individuals who are inherently prone to violence, bearers of a profound psychological flaw that erupts sporadically; Or, they are individuals who are overwhelmed in very specific emotionally or psychologically charged situations.

As the rate for murderers committing second homicides in around 1 to 2%, then I contend that the latter is the correct view. Murderers are not inherently violently flawed people, but rather individuals who react homicidally to specific circumstances - and these circumstances rarely occur more than once in their lives.

If this is indeed correct - and I see no evidence otherwise - then to suggest that I may react violently to the stresses of daily social life is absurd. Do you react violently to daily frustrations? No. Neither do I. And whilst the particular stresses of life out there are not precisely replicated in prison life, prison life is incredibly stressful. This is why, for example, our suicide rate is so high. And yet, in the face of institutionalised degradations and provocations, I have shown no inclination to violent behaviour.

Why, then, should I not deal with the issues posed by daily life in precisely the same way as you? I didn't "fail" life, I "failed" a specific, unrepeatable situation. To keep me in prison longer is to reveal an incoherence at the heart of the release process.


  1. Really good post and very well put Ben.

    I looked up Shepton Mallet on the internet and in their annual reports there is reference to the problems they have as an institution in moving people on, so even they recognise there is fault within it walls, nothing to do with those individuals like yourself who have to endure life there.

    Lets hope you can break the mould, for yourself and others in a similar boat. Well done Ben, best wishes and I am thinking of you xx

  2. Ben, I am wondering what life experiences do the people on the Parole Board have?
    Not as professional qualifications, but coal face experience working with people from all walks of life?
    Political correctness plays such a huge part in muddled thinking these days; I wonder if it plays a part in their seemingly odd thought processes when it comes to making decisions regarding your tariff.

  3. Respect for your achievement in becoming a law researcher. maybe when out here, the sun will rise at you again.

    Sorry you went to prison so young, but don't you think that murder (premedited) should get death penalty?

    It is not personal, don't get me wrong....

  4. My answer to Anonymous 2 :Nobody deserves death penalty.

  5. Killing is wrong... Killing to make that point just implodes under the weight of its own irrationality!

  6. Anon#2 Also think about the impact on the family, what if it were one of your family convicted of murder? wouldn't that make you suffer too? My main reason for opposing the death penalty, is what if you were rich and could afford a lawyer like Mr Loophole (nick Freeman) you may have done the same crime as someone who can only afford the crap legal aid firm. Hardly fair is it?

  7. In answer to Anonymous above - this country is supposed to be developed and civilised and has many good religions in it - why would anyone see justice in killing another person - even a convicted murderer? Ben committed his crime when he was a child and has matured into a reasonable and sensible man - would we 'kill' children in a civilised world - of course not. We must always rehabilitate criminals i.e. murderers and others alike.
    Keep going Ben - it would be good if the parole board were forced to read this blog before they meet.

  8. re: the Parole Board and life experience....I have loads! (as well as the qualifications) I applied this year but there were over 1100 applicants and I didn't get through. Apparently, I was in the 'marginal' category. I am very committed to do it and hope to get on it one day.
    Thanks again for this blog.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.