Friday, June 17, 2011

Peace and Quiet

So, 21 days in the Block, the euphemistically titled "Care and Separation Unit". That's about double what anyone else here has been clobbered with for a mobile, but as I've previously noted, revenge was in the air. My appeal has been lodged.
The disciplinary hearing was a farce, as expected, though conducted with a veneer of civility, even humour. But the governor refused to address my defence and prevented me from asking a witness the questions I wanted. The conclusion was foregone, so I spent the time racking up points of appeal.
The most obvious point in my defence, and the governor flatly refused to explain it away, is how I can be in possession of a phone at 11.30 when even the screw who nicked me says that I was 400 yards away!
Meanwhile...The Block. Hardly a massive strain on my psychological resources, though I realise that it has been well over a decade since I've stared down a few weeks in solitary. I'm such a bad boy, eh?!
The routine is dull. The Block is an exercise in dealing with 23 hours a day of Nothing. The door is unlocked after 8am, for me to make any applications, complaints, hand in mail, the paperwork housekeeping that is such a large part of prison life. Declare whether I want a shower or exercise. All this is conducted across the doorway, the cell is only left for the shower or exercise, everything else, meals etc, are delivered. It isn't a bad level of service...
At some point in the morning, the duty governor, a medic and a chaplain will appear, all making the same enquiry, "Everything okay?" Today, it was two chaplains and two governors, making me wonder just what I have to do for peace and bloody quiet?
That's the high point of the day...the rest is just me and the four walls. And I've ran out of antidepressants. Bugger!
All my old tricks for filling the time come back on demand. Reading, sleeping, writing, pacing...lots of pacing. This cell is, bizarrely, larger than the one I have on the wing, so I can actually stretch out a bit, 7 short paces from door to window. I say window; I mean a collection of small opaque glass bricks. With a loo and running water, I'd be quite content if they welded the door shut. All I'd really miss is internet access...
As my default setting is "leave me the hell alone", this isolation is no great hardship. For others, it is debilitating. Some people truly are social animals and the company of others is essential for their wellbeing. They find the Block particularly difficult.
Even in the most banged-up of prisons, there are moments in the day when doors are flung open, if only briefly. To move to work, to collect food...and these can be intensely social minutes, everybody running around conducting the small exchanges and favours which are the oil that smoothes prison life. A stamp here, spoon of sugar there, who has today’s newspaper, can I look at your TV guide... These are what my present situation denies, the minutiae, the genuine contacts with peers. That said, on the wing I'm notorious for locking my own door, and not just cos I was on the phone!


  1. Ben... wow where do I start? I was thinking WTF but seriously lad, how can you honestly lodge a complaint against the way you were treated, when you blatantly broke the rules!!? Mobile phones are not allowed in prisons for a reason! Just like internet access is denied for a reason.
    Anyway, You have obviously committed an offence to be in prison in the first place, which tells me things weren't that great before you got there, so why waste your time, arguing with screws & causing hassle for yourself? Get yourself some qualifications, do some education, not that it sounds like you need it, but just do something constructive with your time there. keep your head down & don't rise to any annoyances. Your time would go so much quicker if you found something productive to do! I spent a year in jail, it wasn't pleasant, I hated being away from my family etc.. but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I put my life of drugs, crime & deceit behind me & moved on. Took advantage of all the opportunities open to me & finished my sentence in Cat D with even more opportunities to better myself.
    Please count yourself lucky that you are able to at least take part in this blog.. don't ruin what you've gained already bcuz others are doing it or 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'. Think more of your future & release rather than complaining about what you don't have. Solitary confinement has its uses for those that need to calm down or are a risk to others or just can't behave. But if you don't like it down there, then stay out of trouble!!
    Stay true to yourself but only if its the better half of you.
    Good luck Ben,
    Think carefully before you act ok xx

  2. Trudi...I get the impression you haven't read much of this blog, so you might want to go back and skim through the archives. There's a lot of stuff I could correct you on there, but really, I think you should just take a look at the archives.

  3. Or .......

    someone prints off the archives of the Trudi linked site above and smuggles them into Colditz so that the Count of Monte Cristo can take a look.

    One never knows ---he may actually attempt to discipline himself in a way that's relevant to his circumstances.

  4. @trudi whether or not Ben committed the offence, if his description of his hearing is accurate then the Governor has acted unlawfully. By denying him the right to a fair hearing, then the governor has violated his duty under s.6 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which requires all public authorities to obey the European Convention on Human Rights. As this tribunal has a strong judicial nature (given the powers it has) then it has to follow the rules that apply through Article six of the convention, the right to a fair trial. Part 3(d) of this article expressly gives the right to examine witnesses called against you.

    As Ben blogs not just for his own cause, but to highlight failings in the prison service, it is entirely appropriate that he publishes this complaint as it shows a serious failing by a senior member of the Prison Service.

  5. @ Anon 4:36

    Or both!

    I actually don't think the situations are sufficiently similar for Trudi's site to have much influence, but I certainly found it an interesting read when I skimmed through it.

    I just got the feeling Trudi was missing big chunks of background info - like, for example, what Ben is in prison for.

  6. The message I would hope Ben could take from Trudi's site is a general one---perhaps about humility and appropriateness. I like her attitude to life...and the real courage to change she has grittily shown. She doesn't see herself as someone unaccountably marooned in some sort of hell on earth, for instance.

    When it comes to prison hearings, I think the idea is that offences committed during incarceration must be divided up between those that are ‘criminal’ under universal domestic law and those that are merely ‘disciplinary’ and unique to the prison institution (like playing cat and mouse with a prohibited mobile). Probably ECtHR jurisprudence has allowed greater latitude to the authorities re procedural safeguards for the latter type. Certainly when they are going only as far as a governor hearing. Correctly so, one might think. Otherwise the whole process of clink adjudication could grind to a halt for lack of resource.

    Or does anyone think that prisoner Ben should have had the full procedural protections of a criminal trial cos he insisted on cell phone use?

    Why on earth can’t he behave like he wants out? I absolutely don’t get that.

    I bet that many many decent folks within the system and involved with him over the years, and trying to help him, have been similarly nonplussed by what to me is a supremely self-indulgent attitude on his part.

    Clearly it’s about ego-satisfaction before it’s about anything better than that.

  7. Lovin the new pic, my how cheeky and well you look Ben, love it.

    On the discussions about the phone again though, you've been punished for it, so what is the point in taking everyone to task over it, surely that'll cause you and others more grief, and more grief than is warranted?

    You're so close now to moving on, if you took the 'trial' over the phone further, you would be putting back the timescale for your moving.

    Many of us suffer injustices in our lives, its not fair, but some things you have to let go and see where life takes you.

    I am sure everyone including yourself would be relieved if you were to let it go.

    Thinking of you and best wishes xx

  8. @Anon 6:09-The jurisprudence lays down a sliding scale based on how judicial the nature of the hearing is. Key in this is the power of the tribunal, and the fact that Ben has been deprived of liberty (even if it is a deprivation from a lower starting base) means that it is more likely to be considered Judicial in nature.

    Important here are the cases of Bell v UK, which stated that a criminal charge is one that results in loss of liberty, and Black v UK, which explicitly states that Prison governors are subject to article six when hearing disciplinary hearings.

    You should also note that the provisions of Article six do not lay down the method by which a fair trial is to be had, merely the principles under which it is to be had.

  9. @ Anon

    I really admired Trudi's attitude too, but I seriously doubt it's one Ben is likely to pick up. And I do think the difference in situation has an effect: it's harder to work toward a goal, mentally and emotionally, when it's poorly defined or far away. Trudi seems to have had a more clearly defined path, and a shorter sentence, both of which would make it easier to have a positive mindset.

    As far as why he can't behave like he wants out, I can't really explain anything, but I know a few people like that IRL - my usual term for them is "incorrigible s**t-disturbers" but I don't like to use it online because without tone of voice it sounds pejorative, and I don't use it that way; it's a personality type I tend to get along pretty well with. I suspect it's also a personality type that chould provide fodder for a lot of psych research, but there is a certain logic to it. It may annoy the living daylights out of the rest of us at times, but I think there's some value in having people who challenge our systems reflexively, on principle, even when it's not sensible to do so.

    As far as having all the protections of a criminal trial, yes, that may be over the top. On the other hand one presumes such hearings exist for a reason (at least if one is optimistic.) I wasn't in said hearing, so I can't say whether it was "a farce" but if they were basically blocking out one side of the issue it strikes me as a bit pointless to have held it at all.

  10. whats the point of calling witnesses when he'd admitted to using a illegal phone?

    Can't do the time, don't do the crime!

  11. @above
    my understanding is that Ben admits to having possessed mobiles in the past, but not on this occasion. Therefore he is still entitled to due process, which includes the ability to cross examine witnesses.


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