Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Work, Work, Work

So the Parole Board and various prison staff take great umbrage at my disdain for "menial" work, and the efforts I make to avoid being lumbered with it.

I thought it may be informative to list all of the jobs that I have been allocated over the course of my sentence. That's 30 years, at a cost of around £1.5 million. What did I get for my time, and you for your money? In chronological order, from 1980, these are the jobs. I have excluded formal education and periods of unemployment.

Hospital cleaner
Landing cleaner
Stripping cables
Landing cleaner
Food server
Attaching pins to rings (lynch pins)
Screwing bolts into housings
Basic welding
Kitchen cleaner
Education Orderly
Landing cleaner
Workshop Cleaner
Textile checker/packer
Textile cutter
Wing No.l (tea-boy)
Education Orderly
Library Orderly
E-Commerce Strategist/SWOT Analyst
Toilet Cleaner
Nuts and Bolts packer

This is all they think I am good for. Well, not just me, any prisoner. Along the way, interwoven with this litany of the depressing, I made the effort to pass my 0-Levels, A-Levels, BSc(Hons), MA (Merit) and now into a Doctorate. Much of this study was conducted against a background of indifference bordering upon obstruction.
Now they call me an egomaniac and "grandiose" for daring to hope for more but in truth, who would aspire to the work they have allocated me over the whole of my adult life? Who would not complain at this meagre aspiration that is forced upon us?

I curse those in charge of my life who believe I should plead for no more than a shelf-stacking job for the rest of my working life on release. Worse than that, curse them for attempting to pathologise a desire to aspire. What you and I would characterise as the innate urge to achieve, to overcome our surroundings, my keepers see as signs that I am "difficult to manage" and accuse me of thinking I'm a bigger deal than I am.

I've sweated and sacrificed, had to fight and manoeuvre, to gain my education and I'm damned if I will allow the views of my keepers to deprive me of aspiring to achieve more in my remaining years. Pushing a mop around a supermarket aisle because I have to pay the rent is one thing; doing it because my masters believe that's all I'm good for is another. And I will resist it.

Whatever I do manage to achieve in life, whatever small contribution is within my purpose, will be in spite of the efforts of the prison service and its minions.


  1. F**K Yeah! I'm a fan of your more intelectual moments too Ben, but it's always refreshing to see some righteous anger! All the best, keep it up.

  2. Curse them but don't kill them.

    One is enough :)

  3. Comment above is unnecessary.

    Before reading that I was feeling inspired, I like your outlook on life and yes there is something quite different about working to pay the rent and pursuing a passion. Education is the key.

  4. A passionate and poignant post, righteous anger indeed. You've come so far, please don't lose heart now. I admire your spirit and your dignity, peace and respect to you Ben.

  5. SWOT analyst?! That actually sounds quite interesting...

    I expect it wasn't though.

    As for the rest of your post - lot's of us out here are desperately hoping you'll make it through your stint in open without incident but this post sounds worryingly as though the trouble might have already started before you've even been transfered. Whatever you do, you have my support - the world needs people who do things that are not in their own best interests because it is the right thing to do. Some people might see it as stupidity and, perhaps it is, but what you are doing IS making a difference.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly with Wigarse's comments.

    From someone who has recently discovered your blog, and have taken the time to read it from the start,I feel that if you are, in their eyes an egomaniac,grandiose, difficult, long may you be so. You are making a difference.

  7. Whilst the sentiment is all very good, may I ask if Ben has any idea of how the prison service should arrange work suitable for a postgraduate, especially as he by his own admission as the reason why the one interesting job on that list got taken away. Given that such a job could not easily operate in closed conditions (and yes I am aware of the dubious nature of Ben's current catogery of prisoner) i would very much like to know how ben would deal with that issue, especially in the light of his dismissive comments regarding ken Clarkes proposals on prison work.

    Also, with regard to the parole board, whilst ben can sit there in the knowledge that he has disdain for different reasons, on an outward appearence how easy is it to tell the difference between a prisoner who is sulky and difficult and one who has genuine objections to work?

  8. You pick a hard fight Ben, but an admirable one, best wishes and good luck to you.

    While the majority of people have a life of menial work lined up for them, in my experience, many of us do also find time and greatly appreciate things like science, art and culture.

    The bosses in charge of us would rather paint us as uncouth and capable of only following orders and doing menial work, however, the truth is a far cry from that.

  9. Person,

    They could, for a start, actually allow him to get on with the work of being a postgraduate!

  10. They're not allowed to use the term 'tea boy' any more, and wing no.1 is out of date at least in London prisons. These days the fashion is 'refreshment orderly' ; )