Thursday, May 19, 2011

For Whom the Ringtone Tolls, Part 2...

You may be wondering who the hell tries to smuggle a mobile into Open prison?? It's up there with smuggling sand to Saudi as an exercise in utter pointlessness. Well, not me. I can fairly be called an idiot, but not bloody insane.

So the truth of that day and my involvement with mobile phones. Many of you won’t be overwhelmed to learn that I’ve been connected to the internet on and off for some time, and staff have long suspected that I had access to a mobile. Quite right, I did. My first involvement with a mobile was for a few weeks four years ago. Later on, I obtained another.

What did I use this facility for? Not surprisingly, the same as you guys out there. Making calls, keeping my relationship alive, surfing, music…the usual. Most importantly, the mobile was my emotional bridge to the Editor, it sustained us and provided an oasis away from the madness of prison life. And in case you’re wondering, no I didn’t blog from the phone, although I did keep a paternal eye on your comments.

When the prospect of Open hove into view a long time ago, I disposed of my mobile. Instead I opted to borrow one when necessary, avoiding the increased risk of having to operate and hide one of my own.

The morning I was told I was off to Open, I went to the cell of Mr X to use his mobile phone to call the Editor. Then I told Mr X that I would be off that afternoon. After visiting Reception and the Library, I shot back to my cell, grabbed a few things and took them to Reception.

On my way back, Mr X told me that he’d done me a favour – he’d hidden the mobile in my word processor so that I could use it to talk to the Editor over lunchtime lock-up.

He may as well have shot me. My legs turned to jelly and it was all I could do to get back to my cell, when what I wanted to do was just fall in a heap and howl at the moon.

I am now in the hands of the disciplinary process, where it has to be shown beyond reasonable doubt that I had knowing possession of that mobile phone. Although my plea is not guilty, that the main Governor has been wheeled out to act as Judge doesn’t fill me with hope – the stench of payback is in the air! My hope lies with an appeal.

Next week, then, I should be slung into solitary for a while. This is a minor irritant. The real consequences are those that flow from being a Lifer – the loss of Open, serving more years, as all that I love and value disintegrates.

And Mr X? He has his own parole hearing later this year and isn’t volunteering to come forward to get me off the hook. And I don’t blame him; he thought he was doing me a big favour.

Every part of my life which gives meaning to my paltry existence is disintegrating. My PhD research is on a knife edge, as a floppy disc of notes has been lost during my recent travels. And yesterday, my oncologist told me that my PSA level has doubled in the last two months and there is a real concern that my tumour isn't being as helpful as it could be. As a crap 48 hours goes, this has been the worst in the sentence.

And so I face the prospect of losing everything and serving several more years. Such is the frailty of life, for all of us, and it can change in a brief moment.


  1. What kind of justice system incarcerates a child for life then penalises them further for trying to maintain a relationship and have hope of a new beginning after release?

  2. @ Anon, and well said.
    This one!! That is why we so desperately need realistic debate leading to reform of the whole stinking process.

    We all know Ben is no angel, how could he be? He has been in the 'care' of this so called 'Justice' System since he was 14!!. The indisputable fact is he has served over 30 years, LET HIM AT LEAST HAVE A CHANCE TO LIVE!!. Is it any wonder that he, like the rest of humanity, want to have some private, intimate contact with the person who sustains him through this ever lengthening BS.

  3. I don't blame any prisoner for having a phone. Prison phone credits are expensive, and you can get contracts out here, with loads of free calls/texts. I agree, not down to Mr X to own up, if he was doing Ben a favor. But i still don't know how a phone could be hidden in a laptop???

  4. @Anonymous 9:32

    Its a word processor, not a laptop. Given this, and the fact that ben uses a floppy disk, it indicates that this machine is somewhat archaic.

    On an unrelated note, whilst Ben's conditions are bad and his blog does plenty to shock, it is nothing compared to this.

  5. What a wonderful thing it would be if Mr X did own up and got Ben off the hook - would certainly do a lot of good from the point of view of demonstrating, what many of us know, that some prisoners are decent human beings who can do the right thing at times. This would restore people's faith in humankind as well as assisting Ben to get to the open prison, where he should have been weeks ago.

    Ben, you must hang in there - many of us are rooting for you and believe that you should not be incarcerated any longer. Wish I knew more of what could be done. Perhaps the prison service could make an assessment, that in spite of the mobile you are not a risk to the public. The prison and parole staff should ask themselves how they would behave in the same circumstances as you are in and if they could do this with an open mind and hoestly you almost certainly would be sent to the open prison immediately.

    Keep strong.


  6. @Mary. Mr X may be trying to get parole or move on too. He didn't have to share his phone with anyone. Moreover, Ben should not reveal who Mr X is, as no-one likes a grass.

    The prison should reduce the cost of calls. It makes me mad that my partner phones me, from prison, and credits are precious, and if i were able to, it would be free to call him back at weekends, and after 7pm. But i can't.

  7. Are you completely mad? Using a phone is foolish when you are expecting a move to open. Then confessing a historic case of phone use on your blog in this post?? You ask people to support you and then you self-inflict in this way. I think you need psychiatric help.

  8. @Anon
    It pains me,- but I have to agree!

  9. @anon 4:58.
    Whilst I do feel Ben was somewhat reckless, consider his position. He has to move to open to get released. He has to move now, this month, or his next parole hearing will not release him. He has been messed about by administrative mistakes, and last time he was moved ended up miles from where he expected to be with no way of making contact.

    So at a moment of great joy for him, with also a fear of other dangers, how is there anything more normal than to try and tell those close to you in anyway possible?

  10. Tallguy that doesn't excuse Ben writing this on his blog. If he was hoping for any leniency at his disciplinary then he has lost any chance now. He has now rubbed his keepers nose in it.. He needs help. Anyway he could have used a pay phone for that one-off call. Crazy stuff. I worry about his sanity and his safety now. This is a bizarre turn of events.

  11. JUSTICE!...What crimes are committed in thy name?

    Nothing gripes me so much as victimless crimes. What is the 'crime' of a mobile phone, and where is the virtue in censorship?

    The law is the law, but to be justice, it has to have a purpose, and not be an excuse for mere law.

  12. I only agree with Anon 4.58 regarding Ben's pointless admissions. The stuff with the phone was just shit luck - but the confession stumps me!

  13. Telling truth = bad. Lying to achieve your goal = good. Are they teaching these prisoners nothing.

    Then again the whole Mr X story could be a concoction to disguise the fact that the phone is Ben's. A cunning plan.

  14. As if possessing a mobile phone to keep a friendship and relationship going makes you dangerous, too dangerous even to be moved. Face it, the system is full of crass, petty rules like this one which has the effect of destroying a person, and their friends and family.

  15. How has Ben learnt so much- yet mastered so little? when it comes to 'playing the game' that is our judicial system. Even I moderate what I say on this site with Ben's welfare in mind. Yet he fails to do so himself. I too worry about his sanity!

  16. Big picture, little picture. Ben took a miscalculated and arguably hubristic risk by trying to outsmart the system. He has shot himself in the foot, justified the Prison Service's self-fulfilling view of him as a manipulative liar, and thereby made his supporters look like gullible fools. Result: one hundred-nil to the penal system. Far cleverer to have played it by their rules and not let them lay a glove on him. That's the little picture. The big picture is that Ben exists in a system which is so morally and remedially broke that you wouldn't want to fix it. But given almost total public indifference/hostility to 'criminals', that's a consideration of no relevance or force. Ben's situation, his wasted life, is not all about Ben. There are thousands of him. To sum up, it seems to me that he has made a catastrophic, culpable tactical mistake.

  17. Ben is too straight to play anyone elses games and he probably can't either; so he has to go his own way.

    Darby, don't we all have questionable sanity at times?

  18. Poor Ben. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the mobile phone thing, surely we can all empathise with his longing to communicate his news to a loved one. Sometimes our hearts over-rule our heads, the only difference is in Ben's situation it has much more dire consequences for him. As for insanity, yes Sophie we do suffer from it at times and to varying degrees. Ben has been locked away all his adult life so who could be surprised if his sanity was affected? My heart goes out to Ben, and also to Ed.

    I for one do not feel like a gullible fool Charles, and I don't believe any of Ben's supporters should. I just feel a deep compassion and sense of injustice with the way a 14 year old child was dealt with all those years ago.

  19. Sorted Jules, well said

  20. I don't feel like a gullible fool either, Jules. But I carefully said 'look like'. In the perception of the jailers Ben's supporters look, I suppose, like nobbut a gaggle of well-meaning, clueless chatterers. And that dilutes the power of our advocacy?

    Sophie, I entirely agree with you that Ben's obduracy is his integrity. Bloodymindedness is a fine and admirable thing. But I worry that this phone business was more about expedience than principle, that its ramifications will affect many people; that it was ill-judged.

    Which brings us to sanity. Here I think all 3 of us agree.

  21. Haaaaar haaar when does the editor explain why didn't he warn you off an illegal activity?

    5 more years ben!!

  22. A sick response.

  23. Anonymous, 11.10. Of all the upsetting comments on here that has to be the worst, and I hope you are wrong. Had you been a follower of this blog since 2009, you would know that Ben was already done for the mobile he used to own back then, and it cost him 2 years. This adjudication somewhat different, but the point is not really phone but the fact that Ben is 22 years over tariff. His use of a mobile phone does not make him a danger to society - risk to life and limb is the real issue when it comes to release; not the phone. Ed.

  24. I can see why they don't allow mobile phones in prisons. I can't see why Mr X didn't know the one he put in Ben's kit would be found. Is he a bit slow?
    Oh, and keeping Ben in prison is still a criminal waste of my taxes.

  25. This is very sad news, but not uncommon in my experience. I've got two observations. First, moves to 'open' are very sressful and significant numbers of long term prisoners can't cope with it. Second, all indeterminate prisoners are only released on terms decided by the system and not the prisoner. That may sound either harsh or to be common sense depending on your point of view about the system. But either way it's a fact I'm afraid.