Saturday, March 31, 2012


The passage of time is intimately woven into the "prison experience". In a fundamental sense, the passage of time is part of the essence of imprisonment.
This was highlighted for me when I returned from home leave. Although only a few days have passed, it feels like weeks. Time has slowed down. And in this prison time appeared to pass particularly quickly.
But time, and its passing, is a matter of personal perception and external reality can become almost irrelevant. All I know now is that I want to go home - now!

Friday, March 30, 2012


The rabbit breading season seems to be on the up, leading to an outbreak of baby rabbits littering the lawns and bushes. Rabbits, after cats, are probably the most peaceable of creatures and the most relaxing to watch on a sunny day.
With rabbits a running, the birds a singing, hedgehogs emerging and the neighbours sheep bawling, then Sudbury is a picture of fecundity and wildlife. We even have a small aviary, breeding budgies.
Amongst all of this animal life it strikes me as being a tad odd that we are forbidden to keep caged birds.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Sorry State

While it had to happen sooner rather than later, in the event it happened sooner than expected. Last weekend I wasn't able to leave the prison because I just couldn't afford the bus fare. How pathetic is that?
The problem is a simple one. My income is £11 per week, whilst my expenditure is over £20. Lest you suspect that I am living it large, the breakdown is:
Phone bill, £7 (9p a minute)
Tobacco etc, £12
Coffee, £1
Sundries (stamps, paper, toiletries, etc), £3
And that is before I leave the prison. Daily bus fare is £6. Being out for 11 hours calls for a cup of tea and a bite to eat, another £5. GRAND TOTAL £34.
If this situation continues, I may have to grab a couple of slices of bread and. start chasing my mouse...!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


As I very dimly recall, people used to pass the time on trains by staring out of the window or reading newspapers.

Now it seems that laptops and phones are whipped out and everybody sits in the reflected glow of their technology, connected to the whole world.

Connected to everybody - except the person sitting next to them.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


So the parliamentary e-petition for capital punishment hasn't reached the threshold of 100,000 signatures.  Hmm. Perhaps my despair of the masses has been misplaced.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Blowing Smoke Up My...

By the time you read this, Sudbury prison will have become afflicted by one of the most asinine policies yet to flow from the prison bureaucrat’s pen. Smoking is to be banned in the open air.
I can appreciate the arguments around smoking in enclosed public spaces, although the research on the harms flowing from passive smoking is less than convincing. But to what earthly purpose is smoking being banned in the open air, as we wander the grounds in the evening?
It is this State interference with the individual which is truly cancerous, and it is such mindless restrictions that will always heat my political blood.

It's a Living

Someone on the landing just described me as a "professional prisoner". When I raised an eyebrow, he explained, "You know what I mean..."

Ah, if only. Anyone?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Yellow? Yellow?

Within a week or so I should be the owner of a shiny, new, and legal mobile phone. I'm not turning cartwheels. These mobiles are for use outside of the prison and are stored in our lockers near the Gate, to be picked up and returned as we make our forays into the Outside.
Unlike regular consumers, we are strictly limited to the phones that we can buy. The list comprises every piece of crap left on the shelf over the last few years as the world moved on. And none of our permitted list can have a camera or internet.
Even with my vast experience of the Prison Service Mind, I'll be damned if I can fathom even a tortuous explanation for these restrictions. After all, whilst out in the community we are allowed to take pictures and surf the Net, so why deny us phones with those capabilities? A more pointless restriction is hard to find.
And as we can use mobiles within moments of leaving the prison, why are we denied access to them whilst in the prison? Why can we not wander the landings with Nokia's finest in our pocket?
The usual argument against prisoners having access to mobile phones is "security", that mindless mantra used to stifle any unorthodox thought or deed within the prison system. But this collapses utterly in the face of the reality of Open prisons. After all, if I wanted to pass a message secretly then I could do so on my own town visits, or ask one of the 200 men who leave the nick each day to pass it on.
This stupidity - I can call it no other - illustrates the lazy mindset of prison service policy makers, most of whom have never set foot in an actual prison, preferring the comfort of HQ. These over-promoted typists create policies which afflict the whole of the prison system, with no thought or consideration being given to the very different circumstances that apply across the system.
It is one thing to ban prisoners in the High Security Estate from possessing mobiles, but it is quite another to extend that to Open prisons. The result of this silliness is that on one side of the pole we are legit owners and users of mobiles; walk a further foot towards the Gate, though, and we are liable to an extra 2 years imprisonment for having such technology about our person.
If I haven't mentioned it before, I think that the prison system is run by idiots.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Enemy Without?

My brief engagement with the wider world over the past few days is but a reminder to the wider society that tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of prisoners and ex-prisoners wandering amongst you each and every day. You have quite possibly nodded hello or shook hands with a burglar or nonce type over the past day or so.

And why is this significant? Because you wouldn't have noticed the other persons antecedents. He or she looked and acted just like any other "normal".

Prisoners, criminals, are not the Other. We are you, only with a criminal record. Only when that is widely accepted can ex-prisoners settle into society and begin to make their contribution.

You can accept or reject us, and each has its consequences - and you have a responsibility for your decision.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Herding Cats

Two - or more - years ago when it appeared that I was in danger of being released by the parole board, the Editor bought a kitten for me. Alas, my release didn't happen at that point. And the Editor's incumbent cat, Henley, was so underwhelmed by the new fluffball's appearance that he packed his bags and went to live in the garden shed. He has refused to enter the house ever since.

The kitten, Bella, grew up and had four kittens of her own. In another fit of optimism the Editor decided to keep one kitten for me; the other three were adopted by neighbours. Given the vagaries of the parole board,  that kitten, Jack, has itself now grown up. And the Editor decided that we had reached the natural ecological balance between cats, humans and wildlife in this little rural enclave.

As all sensible people know, when you move into a home then making friends with the cats is a vital part of the process. And quite simple - I fed them. Twice. Detente now reigns, although I am having to watch where I place my feet as they park themselves seemingly at random around the house and garden.

You will, I hope, have an inkling that the Editor has created a warm and welcoming nest, a place for us to grow into the future. This home leave is my first experience of so very many things and the Editor is making the whole experience seem effortless.

Reality does intrude. I now have to go off and report to Probation.

Monday, March 19, 2012

At Home

I am at home, enjoying my first Home Leave. Excuse me for not posting a blog this evening whilst I enjoy some exquisite company!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Two Worlds

Of course, we are in prison. And yet many of us spend up to six days each week out in the
community. And these are two very different worlds.
As we log out at the Gate - an ambitious title for a striped pole - we must look outwards, our mindset shifting instantly from "prison" to "community" with all that entails. Behaviour, language, perception, all have to be re-calibrated. Prison attitudes have to be shrugged off and the attitudes of the wider community adopted.
On our return we must use the short distance between the bus-stop or car park and the Gate to reverse the process. We are about to become "prisoners" once again. In just a few short steps the community must be shut away, boxed off in one’s mind and we must prepare again for the prison experience.

This shift, this switching between prison and Outside is one that I am told can be psychologically wearing over time. To be a Citizen one moment and an Outcast the next can leave some tired and prone to mistakes. Not criminal mistakes, or outbursts of outrageous behaviour, but mistakes that the prison allows no quarter for.
A strict delineation must be maintained in our minds between In Here and Out There, no matter how that strains our emotions. And this is something that our keepers have absolutely no comprehension of.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Past

The past is, for a Lifer, ever present. History is contemporaneous. How could it be otherwise when I know that my future, my whole life, has been shaped by the singular act of my having killed another human being?
The Editor gets frustrated and cross when people leave ad hominem digs in their comments. I take a more relaxed view. If you were a friend or relative of my victim then obviously anger and resentment must occasionally spill out and onto the page.
It may make the commenter feel better; but I doubt it. As intended, such comments don't make me feel good about myself, leaving me feeling quite helpless and frustrated. There is no way, there is nothing that I can do, to alter the past and bring my victim back to life. Nothing. And there is nothing that I can do to assuage the feelings of those close to him.
I am alive and he is not. This is the unalterable situation I am in. Even if I were to die a horrible death, he will still be dead. So what am I to do? Truly, there is nothing to be done. That this frustrates and angers my victim’s friends or family is a perpetual burden for them that I cannot alter one whit.
The 32nd anniversary of my crime is approaching and it is always a time when I become more reflective, even maudlin. Some years leave this time scarred with nightmares. All of this is meaningless, though, in that it fails to affect the past.
The future is all I have, and I know that it is a future that my victim never had thanks to me. But I must live; there is nothing else. But I never, ever forget.
So keep the cheap shots coming. I know that they are heartfelt and why should I deny those who most feel the pain of my actions a voice? And I ask you to treat such comments they leave with care. If they are people who are hurting then being shot down by other commenters is, well, a bit mean? I may have lacked, amongst many things, compassion when I was 14 but over the course of 32 years many things change.
The pain of my victim’s friends and family is not one of them. It is beyond my power to alter.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Magazine

Just to illustrate the sensitivities of being magazine editor, I've been told to remove 2 questions from the quiz page.  How old was Jesus when he died? And what nationality was Osama Bin Laden?

I swear it would easier to chair the Ethics Sub-Comittee in the KGB.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Deconstructing the ROTL licence.

The copious small print that comprises the licence for temporary release belies the seemingly casual nature of leaving the prison. To the unobservant, I just wander up to the Gate, book out, and paint the town red until I present myself back in the early evening. In reality, behind the scenes a whole bureaucratic machine has been grinding away, assessing and weighing risk long before the licence is issued to me. No Lifer gets to just wander in and out of the prison.
Each of the terms and conditions on the licence has been influenced by the prison systems view of prisoners; by political expediency; media outrage; and the bureaucratic instinct of arse-covering. It also reveals some strange twists and turns. It reads, to the cynical eye, as if it is the result of a perpetual struggle between two forces - rehabilitation and control. We can go out of the gate, but not to enjoy ourselves.
Condition 1 makes it clear that temporary release is a gift to be granted by the prison, not a foregone conclusion. This is rather odd on the face of it, the purpose of Open prison for Lifers being to prepare us to re-enter the community.
The courts have held, however, that ROTL is not automatic, even for Lifers in Open prisons. It may be strange, but it is possible to be dumped in Open prison and yet be assessed as posing too great a risk to be allowed to leave the (nominal) confines of the nick. How a man can be safe enough to be separated from the local villagers by little more than a boundary sign but too dangerous to meet them is a conundrum, one of many that the risk assessment algorhythms pop up.
Condition 4, the prohibition on meeting media folk, is drawn far wider than the normal rules on dealing with the media. I have, for instance, a couple of friends who happen to be journalists. Can I assume that I cannot meet them for a sociable cuppa? Don't be misled by the caveat, "without the governor's permission". In the context of the Prison Rules this is code for, "never gonna happen!". This is the continuing result of the prison service's profound distaste for having its affairs opened up to public scrutiny or comment. It ever was.
Condition 5 is the relatively recent "Lottery" clause. After a serial rapist won 7 million GBP a few years ago through a lottery ticket bought on home leave, the obvious way to prevent any such political misfortune reoccurring is to ban us from that exemplar of Fate's good fortune, the Lottery. Prior to this man's win, we were allowed to take part in public competitions. So, it's as long as we don't win then?! The absurdity of this is that yer man was sued by one of his victims for damages. Now that we are banned from the Lottery, none of our victims will have the opportunity to seek such valuable redress from the rest of us. A clause merely intended to save political embarrassment also deprives victims of a potential benefit. Doh!
Condition 7 is worryingly vague. Having previously only barred us from entering licensed premises, this new version appears to prohibit a far wider range of social activity. It is heavily political. Should a notorious lifer on ROTL be photographed living it large at Alton Towers, I suspect that he will be busted for having broken the detail,, "or other social venues which are not necessary to or desirable for the purpose for which the release has been granted." As the purpose of these forays into the community is at least in part to reintegrate us into the proper social habits and mores, then joining in when others are having fun seems to be perfectly defensible. To a political eye, though, this would carry unreasonable risks. And the end result of such machinations is Condition 7 - which may as well read, "enjoy your day out, but not too much, and don't get caught by The Sun on a water-slide."

Condition 9 is one of the oldest and most beloved - by the governor! - of all the conditions. This is an absolute ban on our consuming alcohol, with the threat of being breathalysed on return. Zero tolerance applies. This has always baffled me. No one knows how I handle alcohol, having tried to keep me away from it all of my adult life. Surely it would be handy to know if I turn into a nutter after a few pints? And would that information be better discovered now, before I am released? But no. The bureaucracy would rather put the public at potential risk rather than allow prisoners to imbibe under controlled conditions. Again, this is the outcome of the rehabilitation vs. control struggle, with the control lobby winning.
Conditions 10 and 11 prohibit us from wandering into a pharmacy and buying such items as cold and flu remedies. Many of these contain exotic chemicals, such as pseudoephedrine, which test positive in the Mandatory Drug Testing process back in prison. It is not unknown for people to find themselves in deep trouble for testing positive for amphetamines after using these Over The Counter drugs.
Condition 12 is a quite scary insight into the omnipotence our masters believe they exercise. As if any prisoner on temporary release stood atop the cliffs of Dover and forsook a moonlight flit to Tahiti because he glanced down and noticed Condition 12 on his licence-Condition 14 has a patina of reassurance. Don't be misled. If we are late back to the prison, we are charged with a disciplinary offence. The reason for lateness may be completely outside of our control, yet we are nicked.  Which is why I got a little worried last week when my bus broke down. That could have led to a nicking, which would have cost me my single cell, my job, and saw me grounded for a minimum of 5 weeks. Phoning the prison to let them know you may be late returning due to volcano, fire, flood or the apocalypse won't help you.
Special Condition 5 is, perhaps, the most obviously politically motivated condition. That the whole point of resettlement is to reintegrate us back into society, and that much of society now communicates via social networking, is blatantly trampled in the stampede to ensure that the cheap media can't generate a feeble story. As I am already, legitimately, all over the web then creating a Facebook account is hardly here nor there. But that particular pleasure will have to wait until release.
This brief canter through a temporary release licence, sadly perhaps, reveals the perilous hold that rehabilitation has in even the most positive of prisons. This is not a local issue; these conditions are not dreamt up by the governor. They are imposed nationally, a diktat that emanates from that level in the headquarters hierarchy that seems to exist solely to save political embarrassment.
The good news is that, on release, most of these conditions will cease to exist. Then I will have a shiny new licence, one without an expiry date and, I can only hope, include a more flattering photo.

Double - 0 Two and Three-Quarters

I am officially licensed! Not, in a Bondish way, to do bad things on behalf of the State, but to roam the wild streets of Derby. On certain days. And with certain conditions. The License also gives birth to a new word - "ROTL" - previously only known to Mongolian throat-singer. ROTL is Release On Temporary Licence.
The Licence itself is a wholly unimpressive piece of paper that hardly signifies the momentous change in circumstances which it decrees. A piece of photocopied A5 paper, headed by a very dodgy old fashioned mugshot that captures me holding, as per Hollywood convention, a chalkboard with my name and number scrawled upon it.
And beneath, the legalese, incorporating the Conditions under which I am periodically let loose. The cynical may assume that these include handcuffs or a Hannibal Lecter mask and on these I must disappoint.
"Terms and Conditions”
1.    Temporary release under Rule 9 is at the discretion of the prison and not an entitlement. You may be recalled to prison at any time whether or not you have broken any of these terms and conditions of temporary release.
2.    If you remain at large after the time stated above or after an order recalling you has been made you will be liable to arrest.
3. You must have this form with you throughout your temporary release and must produce it if requested to do so by a police officer or a probation officer.
4.  You must not contact the media or any person or place associated with broadcasting or publication, without the governors permission.
5. You must not enter into any financial transaction beyond those necessary for your resettlement needs - Gambling is not permitted nor is making payments for any games of chance.
6.   You must be on good behaviour.

7. You must not enter any public houses, betting shops or other social venues which are not necessary to or desirable for the purpose for which the release has been granted.
8.  You must take all possible precautions against the loss of any bus or railway tickets which you have been given for use during the course of your release on temporary release.

9.  You must not consume alcohol.

10.    You must not administer to yourself a controlled drug or fail to prevent the administration of a controlled drug to yourself by another person.
11.    You must not take any medication unless authorised by the Health Care Centre.
12.    You must not leave the country.
13.    You are allowed to drive a motorised vehicle whilst on temporary release, if clearance has been authorised.
14.    If you think that you will not get back to the prison in the time allocated for your return, you must inform the prison by telephone.
Special Conditions:
1.   You must not undertake work or any other organised activity with any person under the age of 18 years on a paid or unpaid basis.
2.   You must notify your offender manager of any developing relationships.
3.   You must take your ROTLs within the area specified.
4.   Do not take any medication that is not prescribed by HMP Sudbury doctor/staff other than paracetamol/linctus/Gaviscon. Other medication required must be evidenced by medication
name/doctors name/contact signature.
5.   You are not permitted to log on to or participate with any social networking web site i.e. Facebook, Chatlines, etc on the internet.
Failure to comply with any of the terms and conditions of this licence is a disciplinary offence."

Monday, March 12, 2012

The New Boss

The arrival of a new Governor is always accompanied by rumours of change. As the last operational posting of the new man was to be in charge of closing a prison, the urge to attach particular significance to this unfortunate past is unstoppable in certain quarters.
The staff union, the POA, is foremost in attempting to read the Runes and have concluded that Sudbury has only one of three potential futures.
Firstly, to close it down. Quite why this would happen is a leap of imagination as the place seems to make a fair hash its job and is said to be at a good position in the national prison rankings (yes, such a thing exists). There is not an abundance of places in Open prisons and they are the cheapest part of the prison system to run. So why close Sudbury?
Secondly, to re-role Sudbury to being a Category C prison. That would involve massive expense, building a secure perimeter, secure compounds...the bill for putting bars on each window alone would turn the Treasury pale. So, massive investment to upgrade a fifty year old infrastructure. Why bother? Just build a new Cat-C nick, it would probably be cheaper.
And thirdly, and the option the POA suspects most, is to privatise Sudbury, flog it off to one of the big incarceral multinationals. The ones with dodgy records for human rights abuses abroad seem to be favoured.
Although there are no privately run Open prisons, this option makes the most sense. Being cheap to operate - low staff levels - and with workshop facilities and slave labour already in place, then the potential for a more business-orientated management to make a few quid seems obvious.
The only question is, why change at all? And why is the arrival of a new Governor invariably accompanied by a flurry of rumours?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Parole Process

Bear with me as I try to unravel for your delight and amazement the process that should lead to my release in a couple of months. If I just trail off into incoherence, just accept that I've wandered off to pull rabbits out of hats...

The process began a few months and in a different prison. The parole timetable begins 6 months before the hearing, meaning that the first staff reports for the parole board to mull over were written back in October, in a different nick. They are benign enough but lack any firm recommendation save for "see how he does at Sudbury".
My parole hearing is set for May, although regular readers will appreciate that a date with the parole board is a slightly nebulous target. Before this, though, I have to be squeezed through Intensive Case Management, a sifting process used by the Board to weed out the hopeless cases.
In his recent comment, Jailhouselawyer was quite right in his view that the Board usually requires a significant period to be spent in Open prior to ordering release. Two years in Open prison was a regular period, and the one I arrived at Leyhill with several years ago. Doubtless JHL was in a similar position when he passed through these halls.
The influx of indeterminate sentences, though, has seen the lifer population more than double and lead to the whole system verging on collapse for lifers. One response has been to re-jig the timetable to be followed in Open.
In previous years, for example, if I had landed at Open prison with only 6 months to go to a parole hearing then the prison would have shrugged its shoulders and obstinately scheduled my pre-release activities to last at least one year. Today, though, Open prisons are more attuned to the parole board's schedule and the necessity to slim down the lifer population and so have introduced "streaming".
There are four streams, each dependent on the length of time till the next parole hearing. The longest is two years, the shortest being 6 months or under. The latter is the stream to which I am allocated. In essence, each stream incorporates the same activities - work, home leaves, etc - but compressed into a shorter timeframe.
As a result, in the six months leading up to my parole hearing then I will have completed as much outside activity as a man on the 12 month stream or longer. This is an eminently sensible response to circumstance. The focus has shifted from the length of time spent in Open to the amount of activity completed.
This rush does have its drawbacks, most of them being bureaucratic. No matter how frequently staff supply the parole process with reports on my progress, they are always instantly out of date as I complete a further town visit, period of work, etc.
The present focus is to persuade the parole board that, even though I haven't done much out in the community at this point, by the time May arrives I will have been spending 6 out of every 7 days outside of the prison, had a dozen town visits and three or more home leaves. In addition, all relevant staff - including my probation officer - seem content to recommend release at that point.
In other words, this is the stage where I must persuade the Board that I am not a hopeless case and that I should go forward to the hearing in May. Need I bother to say that if they refuse me that opportunity to argue for release, then various forms of hell will be raised...?!

Friday, March 9, 2012

What Works?

This was a wonderful idea unveiled by the worst Tory to have his hands on the prison estate in the 1990's, Michael Howard. The idea was, the activities of prison should focus resources upon those activities which could be shown to reduce re-offending. Not a completely mad idea on the face of it.
What Works? quickly became What Works. The loss of the question mark signalled the end of any genuine inquiry or thought and the idea became extremely prescriptive and dogmatic. No one was looking for What Works?; but everyone was being told by HQ What Works. End of discussion.
A part of this broad programme are the services provided to substance abusers. As so many prisoners can find the roots of their criminality in drugs or drink then such a focus should be one taken extremely seriously.
A service, known by the acronym CARATS, swept the country. Each nick has CARATS, counsellors of various types dedicated to weaning us off our chemical crutches. But here is the baffling thing. Having cost some 150 million GPB, there has never been any research to explore whether CARATS has any effect on reoffending.
150 million quid is not loose change, least of all in a time of austerity. If the government is going to spend that sort of money on a service then it is wholly reasonable to ask if they are getting any return on their money. Sorry- your money! And the answer may prompt the reintroduction of the question mark to What Works. We'd all benefit from knowing.
CARATS: Counselling, Assessment, Referral, Advice, and Throughcare 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Security v Opportunity

Talking to a fellow lifer, I was astonished by his perception of his forthcoming release. He wasn't particularly interested. Prison supplied him with a guaranteed roof and food whereas in the cold world of the outside community nothing was guaranteed.
True. There are limits as to how far it is possible to fall in prison. Even in the cages, even in the deepest strongbox, a mattress and food is available. And whilst I understood this man’s worries I was disturbed by his failure to fully appreciate the situation and the comparison.
What he was overlooking was that while prison always provided the basics, a safety net of sorts, by definition prison also limits how far you can improve your life. Prison exchanges the uncertainty of economic life for certainty, but that certainty is that you will be forever condemned to living a life of struggle and near poverty. In return for the guaranteed bed and board, you are also guaranteed to be denied any opportunity to advance in life.

This is, for me at least, an appalling trade-off. And this man's views were not necessarily reflective of the reality. On release he will be in a probation hostel and able to access a full range of state support. And whilst living on state benefits isn't going to be a rollercoaster of delights, it is better than a prison existence.
For whilst outside it is possible to fall into the gutter, there are also an infinite number of possibilities to improve life; none of which exist in prison.
None of us knows what our future life holds but there is one truth that must always be remembered. That prison may offer more certainty than the community, but part of that certainty is lifelong deprivation. And in the community, it is possible to rise so much higher.
I suppose the view of this depends on mindset. If a lifer believes that he is able and willing to explore and exploit the opportunities available in the community then leaving the constraining certainty of prison will be a relief. If, though, you believe that the only way is down on release, then the uncomfortable certainties of imprisonment must look more attractive.
Outside, we can fall further but also rise so much higher - it is laden with potential for Good or Bad. The essence of imprisonment, in contrast, is a profound stagnation.
God save us all from forgetting that.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dead - Doh!

The prison system has a clever construction known as the "safer cell design". These cells are intended to reduce or eliminate ligature points - that is, features from which we can hang ourselves.
Well done, then, to the private nick which altered a Safer Cell by fitting a strong shower rail, then chucking a known suicidal man inside.
For once I agree with the Prisons Ombudsman. Stupid beyond belief; and a waste of life.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Mouse, my Lodger

The mouse seems to have made itself at home though I’m damned if I can find its nesting place. It is also taking to explore further afield than my little bin, now reaching as far as my shelves. This involves climbing either sheer wood or sheer wall, either one deserving of a nibble at the biscuits I hide up there.
Only once have I seen him. Quiet or absent during the day, within minutes of my light going off at night he is out and about, usually making a racket by trying to lever empty packets out of my bin to under my bed. Once he reached the shelves I just had to check. Leaping for the light switch I caught matey red handed and beady eyed before he leapt behind the telly. A few minutes passed and he stood up and peered around. Such a pretty looking mouse, so I haven't the heart to kick him out into the harsh world. As long as he doesn't start nibbling my toes as I sleep, we should enter a period of peaceful coexistence.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Not Golden, but Brass

It was all too good to be true, wasn't it? I was meant to be at home as I write this, my first taste of that in nearly 32 years. Plans had been made and the prospect of it filled my mind like nothing else.
Only to be told that it wasn't going to happen, that "there was no Licence or Diary Entry". Well, I put in my bit of paperwork. My probation officer had done hers. That leaves only the nick as a potential source of incompetence.
I should try to temper my anger and disappointment. After all, this is prison and shit happens. The nick manages to get about 200 men out each day, a huge logistical and bureaucratic feat. That an odd error occurs is not to be unexpected.
But the truth is, I am absolutely livid. Never again do I want to have to phone the Editor at home and leave her so upset.
Editor's note:  Just in case anyone is confused, Ben was meant to have 4 days home leave starting today but it got messed up so he had to settle for a day out yesterday instead!

Golden Boy

This is now getting seriously weird. You must have met people who seem to always land on their feet in life? Who, no matter what the circumstances, come up smelling of the proverbial roses? Over the years I have seen Lifers who have this inbuilt good fortune, who slip through their sentence like a greased eel and who Fate steers away from difficulty.
Well, I have never been one of those people. Quite the opposite. Given any set of circumstances, I could pretty much guarantee to come out the other end feeling slightly worse for wear. Until now. Everything is just going too well.
And that in itself is unsettling. Now and then I peer out of my window up into the sky, looking for the meteorite that periodically lands to cause havoc on my life, but all I see is clear blue. It feels as if I am living someone else's life, because mine was never this simple. But if this is what life is like for those who always land on their feet, I can see why they were so bloody cheerful.
I try to persuade myself that it won't last, that some crap will inevitably roll down the hill in my direction but I'm not as convinced as I once was. If this carries on, I may not only leave prison but do so slightly less jaded than I expected.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ben - Live and Kicking

It had to happen at some point, so here I am - live! My first ever directly posted piece and, such is the way of things, I'm damned if I have anything of note to say at all.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to say hi after the last two years of support and readership. Without you then I'd be howling at the moon.

And in case you are wondering, no I'm not on a mobile, I'm on the Editor's laptop whilst on a day release.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Beast Within

I have often wondered about the nature of blogging at one step removed. This is, I now realise, a luxury that exists solely because of your patience. The result has been to allow me time to reflect, both as I write and as I read your comments as they arrive from the Editor. It has given the blog an opportunity to grow without the bitter heat that could arise from a more immediate blogging experience.
Last weekend, as I sat with the Editor and read some comments, laptop at hand, I found myself having a deeper appreciation of blogging and why some commenters - on so many blogs - wrote in such an intemperate way. This dawned on me as I read an asinine comment - and my urge was to post a response that wasn’t far removed from "and screw you, jerk!" I settled for a touch of pomposity and sarcasm, adding a smiley face to take the edge off.
That was the immediacy that I have been denied since the inception of the blog, and I now ponder upon how (sporadic) legitimate access to the ‘net will change both what and how I write, and whether I will descend into the animalistic abuse that passes tor commenting at times? Or whether I will retain my distance, reflecting upon what is said before responding?

What I Won't Tell You

I am about to begin working outside the prison. This is unpaid work, often taking place in the charity sector. And this raises a dilemma for me.
While I would dearly love to continue to share the broad strokes of my strange life with you, when I am working outside I will have a responsibility to those I work with and for. Is that fair? And so I won't be revealing exactly when I am out and about, nor where I am working.
This is to realise that there is always a constituency which will be willing to put the boot in. I don't want to give a bored hack an easy chance at a cheap shot at either myself or my employers and so a discrete veil will obscure some details of my activities at times. Though I think it's safe to assume that my employment won't involve working with "vulnerable groups", explosives, or as an astronaut.
As ever, though, I will talk about these things and what they mean, and with luck you won't even notice what I leave out. It's not as if any of you noticed that it was I, not the Editor, who posted a few comments last weekend...

Thursday, March 1, 2012


The most depressing interview ever has just ended. It was intended to steer me to greener pastures on release, to find some path through the tangled thicket of working life to find me some sort of berth in the employment market.
I came away with a recommendation that it may be best if, on release, I align my expectations with undertaking unpaid charity work.
Something to look forward to, then...