Monday, January 17, 2011

Well I never!

The Ed sent me a comment, made by Anon, which implied that I am campaigning for my release on the blog. It made me think.
I never have asked anyone here to support me release. Not once. I have stretched so far as to argue that I pass the legal test for release, that is not posing "a risk to life and limb". But I've never said here that I should be released or asked anyone to support a campaign for my release.
If people are led to take that view because of things I have written, I'm not going to argue! But this blog was never intended to be my personal vehicle to campaign for release.


  1. And immediately right to this post:

    'Facebook Badge

    Promote your Page too'

    Whether you intend to or not, your page has become a vehicle for the promotion of your release. (And actually, I think this is no bad thing.)

  2. That struck me as well anon ... then I realised that ben can't actually see the screen we read!

    I suspect that in terms of release this blog is very much a double edged sword!

  3. I think you will find that Ben's blog and the campaign for Ben's release are two entirely different entities. The confusion arises from the fact that the campaign links to the blog causes confusion for some who see it as one thing. Hope this helps.

  4. Firstly, I have this thing about anonymous comments. I am glad something has made you think! I see nothing wrong with campaigning for release. It worked for George Davis and he was guilty!

    Readers, please ignore the Facebook Badge to the right, in the sidebar, which is a campaign to Free Prisoner Ben! Because, it is just a figment of your imagination! Strictly speaking Ben may well be right, because if I recall correctly this was the idea of the "The Ed". And, the article in the Guardian pleading for Ben's release was written by Eric Allison; the recent Times article on the same theme was also written by someone else.

    I have said before that it is not for me to assess whether Ben does or does not pass the Benson/Bradley test for release. That is a matter for the Parole Board to be satisfied. But, trying to satisfy the Parole Board is akin to a nymphomanic trying to satify a man with very severe impotence!

    All I do know from my knowing Ben at Rye Hill Prison is that he is a fully paid up member of the awkward squad. However, that, in my view, is not a ground for continued detention. In his favour, he does have the confidence of the two best lawyers in the business, solicitor Elkan Abrahamson and barrister Flo Krause. I trust them both and respect their opinions. A big problem is that the Parole Board keeps moving the goalposts. And, the stats show that Ben has a 80% against 20% chance of not being released. Whereas fruit machines have a 82% to 98% of a payout!

    In the Prisoners Votes Case, Hirst v UK (No2), there is a legal test which Frodl v Austria calls the Hirst test. The Coalition has not satisfied this test. Recently, a Rapporteur stated in his report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: "The United Kingdom must put to an end the practice of delaying full implementation of Court judgments with respect to politically sensitive issues, such as prisoners’ voting rights". Therefore it is no longer a legal issue, but it has instead become a political one.

    Alexander Liazos in 'The poverty of the sociology of deviance: nuts, sluts and prerverts' (not a typo!), argued that even someone convicted of a criminal offence could, nevertheless, become a political prisoner. Given the way that some of our politicians knee-jerk and interfere with prisons and prisoners, as a response to the Sun and Daily Mail headlines and editorials I can see merit in his argument. I recall Maggie Thatcher once saying that there are no political prisoners in British prisons. And yet, under the terms of the Good Friday Peace Agreement all political prisoners had to be released! In my view, Ben is a political prisoner.

  5. With respect Ben, most of what you say here serves to build a picture of a person incapable of being dangerous enough to justify keeping you in idleness at The Taxpayer's expense when others have to work (or at least do something) for a living.

  6. JHL doesn't recall correctly: the campaign was my idea. The blog Ed put the badge up there at my suggestion as a way for people who read Ben's blog and want to do something to help to find the campaign.

    I posted my reasons for my involvement here back in July, when there were some grumblings from the press and prison service to suggest they had noticed the campaign, but I'll link to it again now so that anyone who's interested can have a look:

    Ben knows about the campaign, but it was in no way his idea and he has nothing to do with the running of it. As John Moore has already pointed out, Ben can't see this page, so he possibly doesn't even know about the badge.

    Please don't ignore it though, it isn't a figment of your imagination and it is a good way for those of us who want to help to organise and lobby; things we have done quite a bit of. The page now has 699 members (come on number 700!), and, as we also use the page to spread other pieces of interesting and relevant information, it is helping to raise awareness in the general population of the rotten state of our prison service. I think we may even have helped one or two family members of prisoners who have found us and Ben's blog looking for information and advice. It may not be having a huge reforming impact, but what little it is doing seems to be good.

    Once more, for the record: although he does argue the case for his release strongly, Ben does not actively campaign. The campaigning is organised exclusively by the blog Ed and I and the Facebook campaign was all me.

  7. I think the reasoning behind this blog is pretty immaterial.
    It is informative,funny,poignant,thought provoking. It gives an honest insight to the way prisons work from an inmates viewpoint, long overdue in my opinion, if it happens to raise awareness of the injustice Ben has and is suffering, so much the better.

  8. I'm the first 'anonymous' comment on this thread, and I have more to say on this.

    But first, I don't see why people have 'this thing about anonymous comments' - my naming myself as an internet pseudonym is no different: 'Queenie' no more identifies themselves to most of us than 'anonymous' does. I'll allow that 'jailhouselawyer' is somewhat more accountable for his comments, linked as they are to his blog (but this option isn't available to me).

    Anyway. It is arguable that all blogs are in a sense 'self-promotion'. Just as facebook is. You may not intend to 'promote' yourself in the traditional marketing image per-say, but you are projecting an identity on the internet, making people aware of your presence and existence - promoting their awareness of yourself. And that serves a particular purpose in Ben's case; perhaps the regular reader feels she has an insight into some aspects of his personality, inward thought and terrible, terrible situation. This new-found knowledge (I've been a reader for only a few months, and I feel this is the case for me), means they give a little bit more of a flying-fuck than they did before about Ben as an individual. There are tens of thousands of prisoners in the system - how many of them shouldn't be there? And how many of those are you aware of their personal stories? Few, I imagine. I used to work in a prison, and I certainly know few. We know parts of Ben's story now (not just through articles that other's have written about him, but through his own word). He's 'promoted' his story then, hasn't he - if we know about it above others? Consequently, I follow articles about him more, I read this blog, I think about him and hope for him as an individual, rather than one of the other many prisoners who shouldn't be stuck in the prison system.

    'Promotion' sounds a cynical word. I don't suspect Ben sees his blog as some intricate plot to win us all over and root for his cause - but that's part of the charm of it, isn't it? We're won over by his genuine commentary on prison life, and the more personalised insight into the reasons why he just shouldn't be there.


  9. I've written a post explaining the situation and my role in it, but it's currently stuck in the spam filter, I'm sure it'll appear soon but in the meantime I thought I'd better write something.

    I set up the Facebook campaign after becoming interested in Ben's situation through reading this blog. The only involvement he has ever had in it was to give his permission. It is a separate entity to this blog, although they link to each other for obvious reasons.

  10. @Cirrocumulus, I'm getting fed up with supporting his leisured lifestyle too. But he writes well.

  11. @ Charlotte. Hi,
    It isn't the anonymous in itself I find fault with, but when commenting it is much easier to adress someone by a "name", especially when there are more than one anonymous replies. No offence intended.

  12. I think that this is slightly dishonest. Clearly Ben you did not start a campaign for your release, or even for you to be moved to open conditions. But there IS now a Free Prisoner Ben Facebook group which encourages people to lobby the Parole Board and all sorts of other people on your behalf. People don't send such letters if they think that the person they are writing about doesn't want them to do so. If you don't want this 'campaign' then you should put a stop to it. If you do, you should own up to its existence!


  13. Not a question of "owning up", Nicki. All he is saying is that he did not instigate it himself. A kind blog follower set it up. Ben does not object, obviously. Think you missed the point. Ed.

  14. No, I know Ben didn't instigate it. I am aware exactly of the sequence of events. But I don't think there's any sense in Ben acting coy when people say he is campaigning for his release. I know that is not the point of the blog but it is the point of the FB group and I don't think it is a useful thing for people offering solidarity to prisoners to be acting with no reference to the person who they are taking the action for.

    And I have absolutely no problem with a campaign to release any lifer who is over their tariff and been sitting in prison as long as Ben has!


  15. The system is like a bully - the longer you let them beat you up the more often they will do it...I know what it's like and if someone was saying things about me that I didn't agree with I would be categorical in my denials. I fought for 20 years, had my tariff squashed 4 times and, in the end, beat it by 5 weeks! A Phyrric victory some might say, but for me, I would have served longer to prove I was right.
    Go for it wholeheartedly or tow the line wholeheartedly. Vaccillation is worse than either...

  16. Nicki,

    We aren't acting without reference to Ben. He knows and he doesn't want us to stop, but that is not the same as him actively campaigning for his own release.

    If I met you in a pub and I said "I'm going to buy you a drink" and you said "fine" then you would know about the drink, it would have been purchased with your consent, and it even benefits you, but I still bought the drink, not you.

    It would not be disingenuous if, should someone get cross with you for buying the drink, you told them you didn't; it would just be a fact.

    PS all you need to do is select Name/URL from the drop down box instead of anonymous and fill in your name in the box that pops up (you can leave the URL bit blank) and your posts will be attributed again.