Friday, November 30, 2012

Injustice - The IPP Hostages

The injustice that is the IPP sentence has passed much of the public by. There are few column inches dedicated to it, rarely a televised word, and only a sprinkling of legislators have given a damn. And yet over 5,000 people sit in prison for no reason other than the fact that their avenue to release has been blocked by the very institutions which put them there in the first place.
In thrall to the populist media mob the last government created a new indefinite sentence – Indefinite detention for Public Protection, the IPP. There was no legal requirement for this new sentence; Judges had the Discretionary Life Sentence at their disposal to deal with those who they  believed posed a future public danger.
This was insufficient for the government, in that Judges had the temerity to use their judgement. With the IPP sentence, judicial discretion was neutered. A defendant who fitted a set of fixed criteria was obliged to be sentenced to IPP. Government predicted that only a few hundred people would be affected. It was a calculation of monumental stupidity and instead thousands of IPP sentences were handed down.
The government threw these people into the maws of the prison service and has watched them been crushed ever since. Those serving IPP can only be released by the Parole Board. And the Parole Board will only order release if the prisoner has completed various Offending Behaviour Courses.
The government has refused to resource the prison system to supply sufficient courses for the IPP prisoners, leaving them stranded and choking up the whole lifer system.
Now, thousands of people are stranded in prison. The government has abolished the IPP sentence – at last – but offered no solution or hope to those thousands remaining in prison serving that sentence. This is not only one of the most disgusting populist measures any government has instituted; it ranks as one of the grossest injustices.
Over 5000 people languish in prison, and their families stew in anguish, awaiting a solution.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Smoke and Mirrors

With a reoffending rate at around 60 percent, deaths in custody rising and general discontent from all quarters about imprisonment, it says something profound about the nature of our polity that the Minister of Justice chooses to focus upon preventing prisoners from "getting too cosy" with each other.

That's the Daily Mail happy then. Now, what about the rest of us...?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Survival Plan

I know that I exist in a highly privileged position. Few of my counterparts have the audience that I am fortunate to enjoy, which began with the birth of the blog in 2009.

This public platform carries many responsibilities as well as pleasures. One is that I don't cry wolf on my behalf, lest people become very bored and I would loath to abuse my position.

Over the past few years I have had the need, due to dire circumstances, to broadcast some type of Mayday. And that experience has revealed that Criminal Justice decision makers utterly detest having their business hauled into the public eye. The fear of publicity is so great that the Governor of my last posting personally read the blog every day, just in case.

Shining a light on my situation in desperate times has had a significant effect on decisions. The noise made by readers has saved me from getting a kicking on at least one occasion. When I met the Director General last year he complained that I was the guy whose readers were jamming up his Inbox. Happy days....

And now there is this difficulty with Probation. A crisis averted is one less hurdle to overcome and so I squealed loudly once it became clear that a bundle of grief was poised to descend upon me. Your vocal dissent over my position has been heartwarming and effective. Backchannels suggest that any adverse decision is now being pondered and passed by the keener eyes of lawyers.

My firm legal advice is that any restriction ion my public broadcasting would be unlawful and that we would win a challenge. Equally, legal advice is to comply with any restriction until that challenge is won. I am not keen to return to prison, I have to confess. Fascinating though I find the institution and the concept,  loath the actuality and always have. Returning is not a voluntary option.

The Plan, then, is to abide by any restrictions imposed - whilst simultaneously making as much noise as possible, through third parties, and going to the High Court with all haste. The blog, at least, will continue through the efforts of my glorious and mysterious Editor. And any battle will be widely reported.

For the meantime, normal service continues then. Thanks, again, to you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dangers of Censorship

Lifers may be released from prison, but we are never free. We continue our sentence in the community, liable until death to be recalled to prison. This is a detail of our – my – existence which is rarely appreciated as I appear to be building my life liberated from the confines of bars and bolts.
The parameters of my life are determined by my Life Licence (always in my wallet) and the demands of my supervising probation officers. You can imagine the potential struggles that can arise in a fluid and complicated life. And when the Life Licence is broadly drawn and interpreted by those supervising me.

I have always campaigned for prison reform. It has been woven into my daily life for much of my adult life in various guises. From helping those suffering a miscarriage of justice, to those defending themselves against malicious staff, through to the large campaigns such as the prisoners union and the vote. One way or another, fighting for change has been the strand that has run through my life; and still does.

As well as operating in the private sphere, assisting individuals, I am one of the very few prisoners who lifted our heads above the walls and attempted to engage with the wider world. At first this was largely through the pages of Inside Time (an excellent newspaper). It was only with the launch of the blog that my voice became amplified. The Ministry of Justice was so affronted by this effort to communicate that the order was issued to prevent all and any communications from me reaching over the walls – an order unprecedented in British penal history and thoroughly illegal. Within days I had overcome this hurdle and the Ministry surrendered; the blog grew and survives to this day.

On my release in August I entered the new world of connectivity, and determined to make use of every stream of communications at my disposal. Facebook, Twitter, the blog, newspapers, television…I have engaged with them all on one prison topic or another, all with the perpetual hope of adding to the perpetual debate around imprisonment.  Hope that it isn’t too arrogant to suggest that I have a near unique perspective to insert into the national conversation.

In these efforts, my first expansion into the media came on my first day of release with an article for The Guardian. The next notable public appearance was with Jon Snow on the Channel 4 news. And it was at this point that my Probation supervisors became uncomfortable.

For I am only allowed to undertake work – paid or unpaid – with their express permission. And my recent TV appearances discussing the Prisoners Vote issue has become a tipping point in this matter. Although unpaid, this is viewed as being “work”, rather than my merely continuing the campaigning that delayed my release for so long.

In principle, speaking in front of a camera is no different than my appearing in print, on Twitter or ion my blog. If probation are to insist that I beg permission before opening my mouth or reaching for my pen then I will be denied any voice. I will suffer greater censorship than I did whilst behind the prison walls.

This situation may appear to be absurd. And it is. And yet this is the life that I live, the constraints under which I am released into society. And it makes me fractious.

I expect a formal Warning Letter to appear imminently, prohibiting my speaking in public. If I defy it, I can be returned to prison to continue my sentence.

This blogpost is my flag-waving. If I suddenly vanish from the internet, it is because I have been ordered silent. I appreciate your support and comments on this situation.

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.

Crazy Days

The day began with rather a whimper than anything more likely to perturb the ether. This was mostly because I had slept badly, nodding off near 3am but having to be up shortly after 7 for the hellish journey into work.

The train is awful. We are crammed so close that miscellaneous sexual offences are probably being inadvertently committed. Several can go past before I have garnered enough gumption to heave myself into the indifferent mass and shuffle towards Islington and my first of many coffees of the day.

Yesterday had a twist to the routine, it being the annual conference of the Howard League’s Student societies. Universities across the nation are home to societies which subscribe to the HL aims and carry on excellent work. London, a good lunch and some expert advice from HQ followed. And so I hove towards Oxford Circus for this shindig, feeling rather apprehensive.

Not being the most social of animals – an ingrained trait rather than a new artefact of freedom – the idea of mingling with a youthful horde scared the bejesus out of me. My role was to lurk looking interesting, to be touted around the various universities like an ancient verbose tart. The idea is for me to do a talking tour around the student groups, mixing my experience with the Howard League message. Note to the interested – will go anywhere for travelling costs and preferably a drink on top!

The day was spilt into various panels, discussions and workshops, each briefly disturbed by my creeping through the doors part way through. Coffee breaks were instituted at strategic intervals, which is how I found myself in a group comprising (ex governor) John Podmore, Prof David Wilson and Katherine Grainger, Olympic Gold Medallist.

That doesn’t explain how Katherine and I ended up in the café with her recording an interview with me. And you read that the right way around – I was being interviewed by an Olympic champion. Crazy days….

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bemused and Birthdays

I had assumed that on my release this blog would somehow wither. After all, release meant the end of the story.....

What I now find is that my stats have tripled. Even a guy with an ego the size of mine finds that distinctly bemusing.

It is a tiny blow to my ego, then, to realise that the post which has the largest number of all time hits is one written by The Editor - whose birthday it is today.

The centre of my world, the unseen rock upon which this blog was built and anchored, The Editor has laboured on a daily basis to see that my mutterings reached the blogosphere. Through thick and thin, personal; stresses and strains, she has been the driving force.

Today is her birthday, A Significant Unnamed Number. Go on, take a sec to wish her the best :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Window Warriors

Conflict is endemic within prisons. Throw together umpteen strangers in a confined space, remove their control over any part of their lives and strip them to the barest level of resources and the recipe for conflict is endemic. People will invariably attempt to exert influence and control over some part of their own life or their environment, and struggle to improve their material lot.

The forms which this conflict takes are myriad. Dirty looks, refusals to engage, rumours, all the way up to bloody murder - the forms which conflict take are only limited by the situation and imagination of the protagonists. As are attempts to resolve and reduce conflicts. One of the few aspects of my life of which I am vaguely pleased are my oft successful attempts at conflict resolution. Walking that fine line between being a non-aggressor or a victim is fraught and not always successful - but worth the energy.

Conflict, then, was woven into my daily life.Nowadays I am most often surrounded by people who are not struggling in any particular sense, and so overt conflict is not yet a feature of my life. That is until you include the Web in the definition of daily "life". And I do.

The blog has been running for over three years and during that time has been a haven of relative civility. People disagree with what I say, and I refuse to either moderate comments or ban particular commenters. Censorship sits badly with any man who has suffered perpetual attempts to silence him. Despite this freedom, the amount of abuse which has flowed from the keyboards of the world has been remarkably sparse.

That was, until my release. For some profoundly unfathomable reason, no sooner was I released than the blog became a target for some screws. They pop up now and then, as if unable to grasp the point that the argument is over - I am free of them. Yet they reappear and litter the blog with abuse, either at myself or at other commenters. Still, I refuse to censor them. History - and the blogosphere - can read them and judge them, because I just can't be bothered. The saddest thing is, these trolls hide behind anonymity.

And then there is Twitter. Where people can cheerfully roll in to your conversation and attempt to wind you up, or just resort to the same dull abuse. It is painfully boring to deal with, honestly. And then they run away and block you from responding - it is, to an outsider, like being ambushed by a malevolent, if simple, toddler. It leaves me feeling bemused, and just a little sad.

And all of these web based needlers remind me of one of the most pathetic prisoner sub-species. These are guys who shout out of their windows after lock-up, full of piss and wind, every threat under the sun at their fingertips. We call them Window Warriors. Because as soon as their door is unlocked and they are within reach of their previous targets then they have a funny habit of running away, sometimes as far as the Seg Unit on protection.

Window Warriors. I thought I had left that pathetic species behind but in truth they just exist just as sadly out here. Only they let their keyboard do the work. Sad.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Weaving A Social Web

I was never the most sociable of prisoners. Not a recluse by any means, but endowed with only limited internal resources to suffer the company of others.  It was not a significant event if I shut my door and told people to fuck off and leave me in peace.

The Editor, fully aware of my broad misanthropy, led me ever so slowly into social waters. Meeting her friends one at a time, then as couples, a dinner party, barbeque….an ever increasing frequency and aggregation of numbers of people that would not unduly perturb my inner recluse.

Out in this new world I appear to have changed. A lot. Whilst I remain wedded to the concepts embedded in “leave me the hell alone” very quickly after release I began social networking with a vengeance, as if the more I appeared across our virtual world then the more “real” I would become.

Facebook was my first step into thus digital adventure, quickly followed by Twitter. Along with the blog – which I have always seen as being a relationship and commitment to readers – these new avenues of expression opened up vast possibilities to make connections. Fleeting, profound, trite, silly….the range of these new interchanges has astonished me.

Conversations have flowed with criminologists, prison staff, entrepreneurs, campaigners…an endless variety that inevitably exists in any society. And all, in their way, enrich my existence. For a reclusive individual with a low tolerance for the inane, the net has nevertheless become an essential feature of my life. Standing outside the kitchen door sneaking a quick ciggie is now always accompanied by my Blackberry and a peek at my Twitter feed.

Virtual presence has led to real-world existence. Meeting people I have known previously only through rather vague or daft usernames has turned a rather lonely London into a more fruitful place. Coffee and the odd pizza with barristers, CEO’s of campaign groups, theatre producers and media folk has had a strange effect. Rather than draining my patience for people these have energised me for  few days.

Articles have been commissioned, talks arranged, speeches timetabled…..productivity of every type has blossomed precisely because I now have developed the inner resources to “deal with people”. A quite unexpected development; one of many in this new phase of my life.

Prison, I have always maintained, is a profoundly social society in the sense that the connections made are intense, fluid, complex and often aimed at ameliorating the pains and deprivations of incarceration. A prisoner who can serve his sentence alone is a rare beast – and probably a bloody liar.

Even so, I am astonished at the richness of my life at present, and that is due to the people who help form my social topology. Wednesday saw me having some peaceable company and good food with my hosts who put me up whilst working in London. Thursday saw me giving a speech to barristers – both Baby and Senior – and then a supper in the excellent company of fellow Twitter users and criminal justice practitioners. The list of fascinating people in my address book grows almost by the hour.

One side effect of this is that I take on a huge amount of activity, commitments and work.  There is the “real work”, i.e. my job with the Howard League, which consumes three days a week in London and work at home. There is the blogging and Tweeting. There is a monthly commitment to Inside Time and a little input at Inside Justice. There are talks and speeches, conferences and travel around the country. And then there is the more personal, fluid social commitment to friends and colleagues, along with being a resource for students of a myriad academic persuasions.

This is what I would have previously called a “social hell”. That I am actually enjoying it – even as it exhausts me – is revealing more about the effects imprisonment has had upon me. Someone recently suggested that I may be “running” – taking on all of this activity – in order to put of stopping to allow everything to sink in.

Maybe, maybe.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Back to the Future

On the surface it all seems to be going remarkably well.

Sitting in the pub with my work colleagues on Friday one of them said, I hear you have a little experience of prison?” Keeping as straight a face as I could I dryly said, “Just a little, thirty two years.” She nearly fell of her chair.

It was one of those moments when I realise the immense span of time. Thirty. Two. Years. And two months later I am sitting in the pub after work relaxing with workmates, girding my loins for what transpired to be the railway journey from hell to get home. More and more frequently I am becoming subject to “culture shocks”, moments where the immensity of my sentence and the difference between these two parts of my life yawn before me like a chasm whose edge I must stay clear of. These moments fill me with huge waves of emotion that are, thankfully, only visible to those close to me.

The pace of my adaptation has been incredibly quick. On my first day there was a commission by the Guardian to write a piece and things went from there. Developing the blog audience reach, developing Twitter and Facebook, writing articles, giving talks, helping untold students, chatting with Jon Snow on the telly and now the consultancy business. That is just the public face of “Prisoner Ben” so to speak. There is also my private life, weaving my insular ways into the complexity and comforts that come from relationships and a shared life.

All of these happened in weeks. After 32 years, my whole adult life, in prison. That is a shift that many would have doubted was even possible. Indeed, I have fistfuls of reports from prison staff justifying my continued detention on the grounds that my aspirations (university first degree and marriage) were so unrealistic that I needed to be kept in longer until I recognised the difficulties I faced. Ho hum.

Shocks of the new aside then, my attempts to rebuild my life have been going improbably well.
I have to report to Probation weekly, to discuss what I am doing and for them to probe and test. Today I was unexpectedly hit by talk of “offence related work” and having to talk about how I killed yet again. Nothing new has been added to that conversation since 1982 and yet every criminal justice professional feels the urge to delve.

On the surface I walk past you on the street as another middle aged guy, albeit with a rather snazzy hat. On the surface, my life is developing well. But scratch away at this façade and you will find that I have a rotten part to my core, a burden that comes from having killed. It is ever present; the detritus of daily life provides a cushion, a thin patina of normality that I can use to absorb the knowledge of my past. But it never expunges it nor buries it deep enough to deny.

My new life is being built at the cost of another’s life. No matter how wonderful the future may be, the past is forever present.

Identity Crisis

Running around the high street in my attempts to open a bank account and deposit a cheque; one thing strikes me.

Everyone wants a photo ID with proof of address. The Prison Service spent decades numbering, photographing and generally attributing numbers and pictures to me. They then took all of their ID's back on my discharge.

The solution to most of the current problems I am facing is to issue every discharged prisoner with a photo ID as he leaves the gate. Substitute "HM Prison Service" with "Ministry of Justice" on the top and we can all swan off into our new existence with sufficient proof of identity to begin to rebuild our lives.

It would cost pennies. And would mean I'm not sitting in the shed looking for loose change on a wet Monday.

Sounds like a good idea...?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Start The Week

It’s an unusual feeling to start a week knowing that I had a job to go to. Obviously I worked for most of my time in prison, but there are vast differences! This was a “proper” job, with someone willing to pay me real money for my efforts.

It was logistically complicated. In my prior existence getting to work was a matter of stumbling a few hundred metres whilst persuading screws to unlock some gates. Getting from base to the Howard League in deepest Islington was a matter of more substantive planning and expense.

Probation have agreed that I can spend two nights in London staying with friends; commuting each day would be impossible on any level. Even so, it means carrying a bag of kit across the country twice a week and I so wish I didn’t have to!

For my first week I arrived in London on Tuesday evening. Early evening. And promptly got lost in the nightmare that is Waterloo station. I’m more of a Paddington man. I finally arrived in wet and windy Brockley after 10 pm and surprised my host by revealing to him that he does actually have WiFi! This gave me a good rest to start my first day as “consultant policy advisor” at the Howard League, Wednesday morning sharp.

 The trip from my London base into work was short and largely sweet – except getting used to crowded trains. And I mean crowded to the extent I had to get off in order to be able to reach my mobile. Rarely have I been in such intimate contact with so many strangers. There were moments when the contact was close that I thought I’d have to declare new relationships to my Probation Officer!

At the door to the office I paused, coffee in hand, to gasp one last fag before hitting the buzzer. I was now officially “a worker”.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The New Job

Perhaps it is a sign of the age in which we live. On my arrival at the Howard League I was handed a  PC rather than a shovel, and spent a period of time familiarising myself with various internal policies and the current campaigns. Organisational and bureaucratic stuff. Nothing too onerous!

Just after lunch - my first Big Mac - I was stopped in my tracks. A folder entitled "Child Deaths In Custody". Opened, it revealed  a list of children who had killed themselves behind bars, the youngest being the age at which I began my sentence - 14 years old. I was shaken, and remained so for several hours. Leaving work I wandered the darkening streets of London, searching for.....what? Some inner peace? Awaiting a revelatory flash to put all of this in context?

I felt drenched in misery. Events from past years and past faces rolled through my mind on an unstoppable conveyor of angst and I felt a certainty of anger at the centre of my being. It was that force that kept me plodding forwards in the face of official disapproval and semi-official brutality, it was a reconnection with the visceral anger that propelled me to dissent with my captors and their philosophy for most of my adult life.

I have had disputes with the Howard League over the years; their priorities have not always been the same as mine. And yet whenever I am asked about the purpose, the point, of such organisations as the Howard League I will now always recall the moment I opened that file.

Society needs dissenters, it craves those who sit in the aisles and shouts pointed questions. When we - and we are all responsible for the policies that put damaged and distressed children in cells - are content to have a system of criminal justice whose destination sometimes ends with a frail body hanging from a cell window then it is time to speak. It is time to act.

And it is a time to reflect. I am. Can we not do better?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Prison Staff

To talk about "prison staff" is an invitation to fall into the same trap that catches those who talk of "prisoners". There is no homogeneous group to which particular characteristics can be ascribed, either when talking about staff or prisoners. Each collective comprises a disparate amalgamation of types, personalities, interests, needs and intentions.

That said.....The place of prison officers in the debates around reoffending is that of bystander. I have yet to see any mention of the role or influence of staff in the discussion, they are treated as an irrelevance. And yet wing staff - the archetypal screw - are the authority figures which have the most dealings with prisoners and so could be said have the potential to influence their charges.

Some may recall my brief appearance on the (illegal!) blog run by anonymous prison staff. in good faith I was hoping to generate debate, to tease out any strands of common humanity that may exist between staff and cons. As ever, I was challenging but never abusive, playing the argument and not the man.

This was a dismal failure. I was bombarded by abuse, banned from the site and was followed by some screws who take advantage of my anti-censorship stance to post abuse here on my blog. And even though i failed to create dialogue, the attempt was instructive in the sense of gaining an insight into the outlook and belief systems of some staff. And I stress that caveat, "some staff". Generalising from those posting on their blog is as meaningless as generalising about prisoners from my blog.

There is a mindset amongst some staff that lags somewhat behind the research.....Crime is simply a matter of free choices and crims make such choices deliberately. And it follows from such views that prison staff have no role to play in reducing reoffending; it is nothing to do with them.

Of course, such a view of criminality is far removed from the reality, where crime is committed by the stupid, desperate, addicted, drunk, mentally ill....and the selfish. To suggest that prison staff have no role is to reduce them to being very expensive turnkeys.

The divide between some staff and prisoners may be important in shaping the view that the crim has of society as a whole. As a carrier of societies attitudes, as a barometer of authority, then being dealt with by staff who believe that you are "scum" or "vermin" (as said here and on their blog) inevitably colours your view of society - and then your view of whether it is either possible or sensible to try to live a straight life.

The role of Probation staff, Education staff and Psychology staff within prisons is debated and they are attributed with a place in reducing offending. it is strange that the staff most in contact with prisoners, then, is relegated to a sidenote, a caricature, and that this is allowed to pass unchallenged.

That some staff embrace a view of indifference to any role in reoffending is an abrogation of professional as well as social responsibility. we pay the price for it, both in their healthy terms of employment and in terms of future victims.

Prison staff should be challenged, not only for any wrongful acts they commit (brutality at Dartmoor, Scrubs and Frankland are low-lights of such) but for their deliberate refusal to engage with those they call "vermin". Because they have immense opportunities to change attitudes and to encourage the exploration of new, pro social, paths in life and the neglect of this potential is itself criminal.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

First University Visit

As The Editor negotiated our entry to the campus it suddenly dawned on me – I have never previously been at a university. For a man with two degrees, that takes some doing!

Led to the lecture theatre I peeked through the door – and had a puckering moment. What seemed to be a full house, all looking in my direction. As I told them the only other time I faced a crowd as large was the riot squad in 1990- but I hoped for a more positive ending from this gathering.

Mildly panicked, I used the remaining few minutes of the countdown to sidle (flee!) outside for a last cigarette. Standing in the rain, sheltered by my new hat, I pondered. Here was a room full of young and inquiring minds. Doubtless they attended from a mix of motives, from the genuinely interested to the morbidly curious, and I had to somehow engage with them.

Talking is nothing new to me. My brief appearance on Channel 4 hardly phased me but then the cameras were easy to ignore. In the lecture theatre the shape of the room, the immediacy of the occasion, demanded quite the opposite.  Smaller group and a smaller room would have been far easier to mesmerise, particularly given my style of extemporising.

The introduction I was given was embarrassingly fulsome  impossible to live up to but very soothing on the ego. Not for the first time of late I had a glimpse of just how strange my life must seem to others’.

And so I talked for 90 minutes, sans notes, huge images of myself and my cell flashing on the wall behind me. Bless them for their patience, because I paced too and fro, sometimes almost talking to myself as I reached back into my memory. It was like living in a flashback.

My delivery was god awful. There was a mic at the lectern but  chose to pace back and forth, and I wonder now how audible I was, how cogent. Never able to judge my own performance at the best of times, self doubt niggles at the edges of my consciousness.

What did I hope for from these guys, apart from their ears? That at some point one of them would be prompted to reconsider something they believed. Maybe, just maybe, I succeeded.

I did begin a bit mean; I asked who in the room was in favour of the death penalty, “who here wants to see me killed?” t may have been a little livelier if someone had stepped up at that point!

Thanks to all who gave me time yesterday. I truly appreciate it.