Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Smallest Minority

Out of a prisoner population of about 85,000 I can count the number of cons who are persistent
and vocal campaigners against the prison system on the fingers of one hand.
As anyone who has ever bumped into a bunch of cons can tell you, we can be the most vociferous and bitter of complainers. Surprisingly, perhaps, we are generally not the happiest of bunnies.

And yet this is very rarely translated into a public campaign or action. The majority of cons may sound off in private but that is where their urge to promote change begins and ends. This is a conundrum.
In decades past, a vocal con was one who lived a perilous existence. Leaving aside the formal mechanisms of control exercised by staff, campaigning cons were vulnerable to the unofficial retaliation of the institution. These ranged from an old-fashioned kicking; to mail disappearing; visits being cancelled; extra strip or cell searches; verbal provocations; poor job allocations; being transferred miles away from an institution where the most minute aspects of life can be interfered with, then the ways in which activist prisoners could be messed about were endless.
Not that this battleground has completely changed... In recent years the prison service has
become increasingly formalised, the plague that comprises managerialism rampaging through the
veins of managers. This has not signalled any abandonment of the myriad avenues used to mess
us about but rather has placed them on a more bureaucratic footing.
Coupled with the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme, every corner of our lives remains as vulnerable to interference as before, the only change being the shift to bureaucratic fetishism. Alongside these changes, which increased the "depth" of control, there have been developments which should have encouraged more prisoners to campaign, to give voice to their discontent.
The legal landscape for prisoners is far more favourable and accessible today than it has ever been. Witness the Prisoner's Votes case which, 20 years ago, would never have reached Court and probably earned Jailhouselawyer a few good beatings in the process.
Alongside the legal changes there are the technological ones. Accessing the mainstream media -who are always very reticent to examine prison issues - is no longer a prerequisite to having a voice. The availability of the Web, of blogging, affords prisoners an avenue to speak up that was inconceivable in previous years.
And yet, there are a mere handful of us who regularly write and express our broad views of the institution which contains us. Why are so many prisoners so quiet, when such a powerful megaphone has been offered to them?


  1. Although I have never been in jail, thusfar anyway, (I would like to remain on the outside too), but for so many people in prison, they are trying to get out as soon as they possibly can.

    A friend of mine impressed this on me, he is a very brave, vocal, lifelong and die hard militant activist; he said to me that if he ever found himself in jail he would do whatever it took (within limits I suppose) but he would just concentrate on getting out and nothing else.

    Its good that there are activists like Ben in the prison system, Ben in particular has highlighted the plight of prisoners so well, but I guess it is or was his particular circumstances (and his personality of course) that lead him to taking it up, likewise the other prisoner activists.

    Times change and things have changed for Ben in a relatively short space of time, so, my advice to Ben is to not look back, keep going forward. He is nearly out and it will still not be easy for him.

    There are some young men, one was on radio 5 live today, saying that there is nothing for him on the outside, he would feel better in some ways in jail!

    So Ben has to be really strong, and, as I said, not look back or sideways if he wants out, go straight and keep going until he is out, then, well, then who knows? Anything could happen.

    Very best wishes to Ben, I hope all will go well for him.

  2. I myself, am a Gnostic, which is entirely different from the concept of this world, or realm. It has nothing to do with any human religion at all, regardless of what so called intellectuals say. They are wrong on all counts!
    The point that I am trying to make here, is somewhat similar to the situation, that you shall be experiencing very soon?
    People have asked me many times, "Being a Gnostic, does that make living in this place any easier?" The answer to that question, is always the same. Answer: "No, and in fact, it makes it even worse, as you become wiser than all others, because you 'Know' the true facts of the meaning of this place, no longer the Lemming, rushing aimless to your grave. You put the brakes on, so you yourself can think, for 'You', and not have to worry about the rest of humankind, as their agenda, you shall always find, is different from yours!
    Play low profile, and keep those strong feelings to yourself, until you at least get full release from the 'inner cage'. You will perhaps one day, find out that the outside, is also a cage also? It is that the bars are just a little further apart, so most folks never notice the outside bars, so they think, lets have fun, in a fun place, and just do, as we are told!!!
    Outside, Ben, you at least will be able to be more, of whom you really are!

    I wish you love, and Eternal kindness


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