Wednesday, March 23, 2011


My time at Cardiff was spent on what passes there for a "lifer wing". It was actually an enclave of men serving IPP's.
And they were not in a good way. A large number were living their days as if they were still serving short, fixed sentences. Just as many had no clue as to the nature of their sentence. The institution had told them nothing.
This is a disaster for them. If they neither appreciate that they are essentially serving life sentences and adjust their attitudes and behaviours accordingly, then their tariffs will become distant memories.
And if no one explains what is expected of them, how to manage their sentence and gain release, then the waste of human life will be tragic.


  1. Hi Ben, I wonder if anyone else has had a response from Michael Spurr's office?. The c*** below is mine.

    Thank you for your e-mail of 10 March concerning Mr Gunn. I am sorry it has taken so long to reply. Your comments have been noted. It would be inappropriate to comment on the case of an individual prisoner to a third party. However the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is committed to treating all in its care with decency. Education features prominently in this respect.
    Yours sincerely
    Steve Gorman

    Steve Gorman
    Head of BCU
    6th Floor Red Zone (Post point 6.02)
    Clive House
    70 Petty France
    London SW1H 9EX
    Tel 0300 047 6031
    07920 555375 (mobile)
    Fax 0300 047 6020

  2. Ironically, the above may be the result of the prison having to defend Ben's article 8 rights, the right to respect of his private and family life.

    At stake is the issue that where a prisoner is being held and, what he does day to day is all part of the private life. To give that information out would not only potentially risk some prisoners lives but also would allow third parties to treat prisons as a fishbowl. Whilst Ben is fairly open about his life, its a matter of what he tells us, which is different to it being passed on by the prison.I would be very uncomfortable if the prison felt it was within its rights to pass on to a third party many of the details within this blog.

    I'm sure Ben will update us about what went on, but ultimately the prison owes a duty to him, not us, and it is for Ben to tell us what they say, not for them to tell us.

  3. Yes Tallguy i agree, and they have a duty of being a bit like doctors (the right word escapes me at the moment). When you get a letter that says "we note your comments" it is a polite way for them to say "just go and do one".

  4. Surely the final result achieved by the e-mails/protestations - is far more important than what drivel they choose to send in reply!?

  5. Changing the subject on the thread slightly; the IPP system is barbaric and it must be like purgatory, like hell for those caught up in it.

    It does badly need reforming, a complete overhall of it would be best, although I am not sure how one would go about putting pressure on the powers that be to do something to stop the IPP system.

    There is the obvious; that is writing to MP's, writing the MoJ and so on. These are activities that can make a difference despite being time consuming, although petitions and letters can be even more effective.

    Concerning the responses from Noms regarding Ben's personal predicament, I agree with Darby. 'The proof of the pudding is in the eating.'

  6. I got the same bland email for noms.

  7. Ben is right about IPPs. They are inhumane and barbaric. There are about 1200 prisoners who were sentenced before a change in the law in 2008 who were sentenced to less than 2 years IPP. The current law means that these 1200 people would not have received an IPP yet they are still in prison. Some of them some 6 years after getting an IPP with a few months tariff. I know first hand about IPPs as my loved one had an 18 month one that kept him in prison for 4 years - he was eventually released by the appeal court - who felt that the IPP was too severe and a 3 year determinate sentence was substituted. This would have meant 18 months in prison - not 4 years. This is happening many many times over. Our family and the ex prisoners friends have been so affected by the harshness and attitude of the 4 years in prison that we feel we will NEVER recover. Of course people should be punished - but appropriate punishment please - not barbarism. I feel that the people in prison with an IPP could present serious problems to the prison authorities as what have they got to lose - when you get an IPP with a 12 month tariff (say) and you are still inside some 4/5 months later. If ones crime warrants such a long period in prison then give the appropriate sentence at the time but make it determinate so there is some hope of release and rehabilitation. Keep strong Ben - thinking of you and wishing you well.

  8. Sorry - typing error - it should read ' some 4/5 years later' 3 lines from the end.

  9. "Let the punishment match the offence." [Marcus Tullius Cicero]

    If you imprison somebody other than for an offence, say pre-emptively because you believe they will or may offend, then what difference is that to political imprisonment?

    When Chris Langham was imprisoned for possessing 15 child-porn images on his computer, it was believed he was a danger, even though he had committed no overt offence to anybody. His excuse for having these images was that he had a morbid interest of the subject matter of paedophilia.

    IPPs, and 'profiling', are all part of the sinister process of politicizing justice. It is as important to freedom to separate justice from politics, as it was to separate the church from the state.

  10. Sadly, I expect the horror stories regarding IPPs will only get worse - as the length of time they have been in existence gets longer.

  11. @ Tallguy...Do you work for one of these departments?
    Personal questions were never asked about Ben, I asked for an explanation as to how the "admin error" came about, and what was being done to rectify it so that it could not happen again. That has not been addressed in the nonsense of the "standard" reply. I appreciate you are trying to defend the reality of mistakes happening but quite frankly sometimes you simply cant.

    As for their closing statement about Education being a large part of it...What on earth has that got to do with the "admin error" I was enqiring about!! Or the statement that "Noms are committed to dealing with all in their care with decency"? Since when? I do quite a bit with various organisations that deal with prisoners and their families and believe me I have not yet experienced the "decent care" they are talking about.

    @Ed, I apologise if this as seen as being 'off topic' but I feel the response from NOMS has been totally unacceptable.

  12. So you asked how a specific error relating to a specific person was made. If Ben wishes to (and I'm sure he will) refer the issue to the ombudsman, and have him publish the report in public, the decision to publicise is Ben's issue. If he wants to publish the response he gets from the governor...that is Ben's issue. If the people Ben trusts as as his conduit to the outside world want to tell us what they have been told...then again that is a matter for them. We as nosey members of the public have no right to demand that information.

    For them to answer questions that do relate to individual prisoners (in any way) requires them to analyse each issue as to whether it considers either a security or a privacy breach...and then risk the bucketload of compensation when inevitably they make the wrong call at some point.

    And no, for the record, I do not work for the prison service. However I do have a very good idea about how Human Rights work in practice.