Ben Gunn: An insider's view of life behind bars

I hope to offer insights into imprisonment that our Glorious Leaders and media fail to deliver
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Should prisoners be allowed to blog? That's the wrong question, really. As long as I don't identify staff or cons, charge money, or rabbit on about guns, bombs or escape plans then the law allows me to inflict myself on you for as long as I want.

Some would find this objectionable. I appreciate that view, but my response is, 'Tough, deal with it'. As a matter of law, my punishment was the loss of my physical liberty, not the loss of anything else. And you need to endure that to appreciate its weight.

Having a blog or a TV doesn't quite make up for loss of liberty. But we are not really talking law here, but more a sense of morality. Should a convicted murderer ever intrude into the public arena? I blame you that I feel the urge to. I don't write this to feed my giant ego. I write this because there is a total absence of genuine, informed debate about imprisonment. The ether is swamped with trite opinion, fuelled by a mixture of bile, anger and ignorance, and some occasional thoughtful interjection may be useful. Who better to offer that than a serving prisoner, whose life's work has been the study of prisons?

On a wider point, don't forget that I remain a part of society. I may be tucked away in an obscure and dull corner but, nevertheless, prisons are part of the whole. Every law, every social obligation and each cultural and politico-economic shift falls as heavily on me as it does on the free person. As a sovereign individual in a liberal democracy, I assert an untrammelled right to voice my views. There are those who will instantly argue that my first post should be a profound apology to my victims. And that I should stop at that point.

Patience, my enemies, I will of course discuss these things. And my lifetime's effort to live a non-violent life may suggest that I do recoil from my crime and intend to try, no matter how futile it is, to repair some of the social harm that I have caused. But I refuse to be defined solely in terms of my crime and my past.

In the meantime, I hope to inform, provoke and entertain by offering insights into imprisonment that our Glorious Leaders and media fail to deliver.

Imprisonment should be a perpetual discussion: the human suffering that follows from crime should be carefully considered, and not relegated to atavistic headlines. Isn't it rather pathetic that it is left to a prisoner to call for this debate, rather than political leaders?

The author has served 30 years of a life term, having pleaded guilty to murder, aged 14. He is general secretary of the Association of Prisoners, and is in HM Prison Shepton Mallet