Sunday, November 25, 2012

Media Tart

It was a struggle to keep a straight face when I said to the guys in the office, “I must go now, my car is waiting…”

My brief flirtation with being a media-tart is the product of a lot of thought. My giant ego is robust enough not to need to see my name “in print” so to speak, nice though it is to be wanted. But that is no earthly reason to get out of bed at dawn to hit a TV studio.

In many ways this popping up on telly to disturb your peaceful cornflake munching is a logical extension of my public perambulations from within prison. And the motives are the same. There should always be public debate around prison and its many attributes, purposes and place in our society. When the State deploys its power in such a naked and violent form then it should do so in the knowledge that it is under the closest scrutiny.

That was the initial impetus behind the blog at its conception. Casting any light, no matter how meagre, into the shadowy corners of the State is, as I view the world, not only helpful but should be mandatory. We cannot hold the State to account if we are casually ignorant of what is being done.
The periodic upsurge in interest over Prisoners Votes had the media folk reaching for their little black books and my name sometimes appears as a viable Talking Head. Not too shabby-looking, free, and able to string a reasonably long sentence together….the list of requirements is hardly a lengthy one!

And if there is any issue related to prison that I feel I can contribute more light than heat upon, then I will continue to stick my head above the parapet. There are far too few of us either willing or able to do so and I feel that is imperative that (ex) prisoners intrude as often as possible into the various debates.

If we all retired into obscurity, the debate would be left solely in the hands of the politicians. And if it means I have to get up at 5am to prevent that, just send a taxi and I will be there.


  1. It is imperative to remember why you're in this fortunate position and the importance of that voice.

    The voice isn't just the man in free taxis and green rooms, the voice is for those in the paddy wagons and cells who have no voice or liberty to enable them to fight for their rights and justice.

    Huge responsibility.

    No pressure :-)

  2. Well said Ben - keep up the work.

    Perhaps you would like to look at the IPPs (Indeterminate sentences) which I believe are to be discarded from 5th Dec. There are numerous prisoners inside well beyond the end of their tariff - with some of them sentenced before the change in the law in 2008 that said tariffs should be at least 2 years. There are some hundreds who had tariffs of a lot less than 2 years, before the 2008 change, but are still inside, in some cases 3/4/5 years beyond their tariff. I am sure that a few of them are 'dangerous' but the vast majority are not - but the Parole Board will not release them!!!

    In this country we are demonstrating barbaric and controlling behaviours keeping these people in prison, and as well as many other points, our taxes are being spent keeping this group inside.

    Brian Barder has been speaking out against this barbaric sentence for a long time - perhaps you would like to join him. You probably know first hand how soul destroying and inhumane it is treating some prisoners like this - with no idea, if or when they will be released.

    It would be interesting to hear some views on this and to know how Ben feels about these sentences and the many prisoners and family/friends who are distraught and affected by the IPP.

    Keep up the blog Ben - it is so good to read your views from the outside.

  3. @ anonymous , 1:50pm.....

    Oh the anguish!! And expressed in such a passionate, yet disconcertingly strident churn of phrase... But what do you mean??

    Surely these poor souls that you speak of do have a voice to fight for their rights and "justice" ... The criminal appeals courts, the European court of appeal, the Supreme Court, criminal cases review commission spring to mind as possible avenues that they may explore in their quest for justice.. As for their rights, prisons and probation ombudsman's office, HM inspectorate of prisons, Independent Monitoring Board (every jail has one) constituency MPs, and a huge cottage industry of solicitors specialising in 'prison law' all paid for by legal aid of course, are all tripping over themselves to ensure that their rights are pretty well regarded and upheld..

    I have read plenty of esoteric arguments on this blog that suggest that imprisonment is a flawed process that does more harm than good; not too sure though that I've read any posts that actually demonstrate that anyone has been denied their rights or justice though...

    1. How you missed it I don't know!. You list 'constituency MPs' - actually the lack of prisoner votes means that prisoners do not have an MP.. Think about it.

    2. I love the semantic creepiness of the comment: Anonymous isn't sure he has read any comments here that would throw his rose-tinted view of the penal system into doubt, thus he convinces himself (or rather, tries to convince us) that incarceration is right and just. It's the classic Golden Rule of the unjust: see not, hear not, speak not of injustice and sure enough it disappears.

    3. @ RH .... You are wrong. Regardless of the fact that they don't have a vote, prisoners do have MPs representing the constituency that they resided in prior to imprisonment and also an MP for the constituency in which their current prison is located.
      If you doubt me take a cursory glance at any edition of Hansard, you will see that parliamentary questions about specific prisoners and their treatment etc are common...

      @TT Rogers.... Re-read what I posted... I didn't say that imprisonment was either right or wrong, just or unjust.. What is aid was that there are plenty of agencies and other interested bodies who are able to examine prison in a far more subjective manner than Ben's blog or the almost hysterical angst of the original Amin poster....

    4. So you still haven't taken up the suggestion to read my posts re Frankland or on Rinty?

      Keep a close grasp of those rose-tinted specs, they serve you well

    5. No, what you said was, "not too sure though that I've read any posts that actually demonstrate that anyone has been denied their rights or justice though..."

      Well do so then.

    6. Can't access them; please re-post them

    7. Nope. Use Search box bottom right for "Frankland" and "Rinty". Simple.

    8. Anon. No MP is obliged to serve any prisoner and many don't. The fact that there is a constituency MP for a home address (assuming the prisoner has one) and for the constituency the prison is in just gives each MP an out...referals to the MOJ etc. Your ideas that there are no injustices is extraordinary.

    9. Anonymous @5.08 p.m. I agree that there are lots of people able to offer support to prisoners. I think maybe one of the problems with internet forums is much of the nuance in interpersonal communication is lost, so that if someone comes in and adopts a deliberately provocative tone designed to rile the blogger and other users, this can result in people reacting and maybe reading too much into what the commenter is saying.

  4. Took a while to research the blog posts you mentioned... Along with lots of your other posts.. Hence the delay in replying to your rather brusque reply to my original post.
    I stand by what I said; prisoners rights are well regarded and protected and justice - which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder- seems to be pretty well upheld in prison too .

    In fact - having read the blog at length- I would suggest that if anyone has myopia it's you Ben, and its a pity that this visual impairment - along with your obvious narcissism - led to you spending so much longer inside than your original tariff ....

  5. So, no comments re the situation at Frankland, not the treatment of Rinty? Both fit within your conceptions of "justice" and illustrate the sterling job done by the various prison watchdogs?

    But then your notion of Justice must be pretty flexible. After all, you seem content that my suffering myopia and narcissism saw me being detained for an extra 22 years.

    Strange guy. Goodbye.

  6. Oh, so if it wasn't myopia mad narcissism that kept you inside for so long what was it then?
    Maybe it was a huge miscarriage of justice that was rooted in some mysterious agenda held by the parole board....
    Then again perhaps it was the fact that for reasons best known only to yourself - although narcissism does spring to mind - you decided to "do your bird your way" passively resisting authority , sneakily joining into the mobile phone culture in prison, drinking hooch, spending your time being uber smug and condescending whenever you dealt with prison officers or governors, using your blog to claim to have taken part in the Bristol riot - but actually having the bottle to see it through til the end just scuttling back to your pad then denying what you did- boasting on your blog about how long you've spent in different blocks, and so on and so on... Best not to touch on the really dodgy bits though eh?
    So, the parole board look at all of this bollocks that you've been up to because you're dead clever - far cleverer than your average prisoner that is - and then decide whether or not this person who clearly cannot function in a world where the boundaries are writ large and the rules even more large, will be able to function in society in general...
    Their decision was repeatedly " nope" ... That's why you spent do long over your tariff inside.
    Justice??? You got the justice you made for yourself Ben ......

  7. If anything in that list adds up to an extra 22 years, please let us know. I have freely spoken about my foibles over the years here on the blog, so no surprises there then.

    The Parole Board recommended me for Open prison for 10 years on the trot, overruled by the Minister. Agenda...?

    Oh, and still no response to the Frankland and Rinty pieces?

    And in your bilious ranting you give yourself away as having had access to some confidential info. Meaning that your not only an Anonymous coward, but a screw who is misusing his access to confidential information. A common criminal.

    So please feel free to come and lecture me on being law-abiding whenever you like, the irony is a delicious teaser!

  8. Anon.

    Those (like yourself) that believe/pretend that parole decisions are based on anything approaching common-sense; are the same people who are ready to accept/justify the stock answers that, in my opinion, are designed to deceive.

    P.S. May you choke on whatever it is that sticks in your throat!

  9. My, how easy it is to scratch away at you Ben... I note that you like to use the word patina quite a lot in your blog " the patina of civilisation etc". .
    How easy if is to rattle your cage, and then watch the patina of a reasoned and well balanced person that you pretend to be vanish, only to be replaced by the paranoia of the institutionalised con that you are...
    Nowhere in my post do I allude to anything that you have not published in this blog, so no evidence if access to confidential information or prison files, just careful scrutiny of your incessant self-aggrandisement ........

    PS ..... Darby,,, get back in your box, your master will throw you a bone soon enough... Won't you Ben?

  10. Get back in my box? You must be mistaking me for some poor sod who has to put up with the likes of your drivel on the landings.

    P.S. My master's a key. And I'm holding it!

  11. Anon, what a joy it has been to slowly watch you transform from what seemed to be another innocent idiot into a verbose troll. Beginning with your assertion that there is no sign of injustice in prisons, I have answered your every point.

    And at each turn you have avoided them, becoming every more slippery and now resorting to abuse. And simultaneously characterising my polite, if terse, responses as a break away from civilised behaviour.

    And all along the way you have been loudly silent about the two simple illustrations I raised - Frankland and Rinty.

    I will engage with anyone; but now you have sank into abuse and personal attacks then your agenda is perfectly clear. My software tells me you are one of the screws whose grammar and syntax pops up here now and then. And now I have nothing more to say to you until and unless you return to your original issue and answer my points.

    Injustice in prisons - Frankland and Rinty. Anything to say about them?

  12. I think Anonymous has a point. We do have in this country a relatively civilised system of incarceration that, in general, goes to considerable trouble to guard the rights and dignities, such as they are, of prisoners. In itself, it's a reasonable observation.

    The problem is, he expresses all this in a deliberately inflammatory manner, because he has an agenda. He is, at bottom, a sadist who believes in confining naughty people in little cages. He wants to rile you by making it personal. That's one emotional tactic that unscrupulous people use to advance an agenda, by using triggers of shame and guilt. This was obvious from the first post, by the tone and manner in which it was expressed. The best thing to do is learn from this and in future ignore people like him completely. Over the last 10-15 years, the internet has given a platform to all kinds of strange and ignorant people.

  13. A bit aggressive in this case I'd say Ben. Looked like a genuine post (albeit one for serious debate and challenge), which called for a reasoned response. I think that attacking a post like this will dissuade genuine comment and challenge to your ideas.

  14. If you characterise that as "aggressive" then I invite you to pop out of your monastery made of chocolate and bunny rabbits to see the real world. My responses were sharp and reasonably proportional to the comments.

    Genuine commenters and those who wish to debate ideas will see the difference.

    The lesson is simple. Stay on topic; avoid ad hominen attacks; and respond to points that are raised.

    Hope that's not to aggressive for you?

  15. Anon 2:35 & Anon 8:12 are either one and the same....or a folie à deux!

  16. No not the same person. I'm along standing unbiased reader and general supporter of Ben. Sharp comments by a blog author dissuade good debate and give the impression of a soap box platform only for comment by those in agreement.

    Ben, you need to think before responding disproportionately to comments, it cheapens your good writing.

  17. It wasn't a good debate, but a series of ad hominem jibes. If you cannot see the difference..... I stand by my comments.


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