Thursday, 10 September 2009

Letter To A Tory

Letters From A Tory has a Letter today addressed to Prisoner Ben claiming very forcefully that Ben should not be allowed to author a blog.

Since Ben’s friend accesses the blog from outside prison there appears to be no practical way Ben could be prevented from blogging. I cannot think of any that would not curtail the the freedom to write letters, a freedom assumed thirty years ago when his ten-year minimum sentence was recommended on that basis. However not forgetting that I would like to disregard it and answer A Tory.

I saw no reason in anything in the post or comments that Ben should not be allowed to blog.

It is not, as implied in the Letter, an increase in Ben’s liberty, as he is using his traditional liberty to achieve it. There has always been heavy restriction on prisoners' communication, and this is no exception. I am sure we can all imagine the restriction of having to access the internet via a friend and the Royal Mail. Given that prisoners have never been entirely isolated blogging in this way is no real change to Ben’s liberty.

I would argue that blogging is an excellent medium for rehabilitation. In a good blog there must be an attempt to communicate well and to reason. If a blog of the style Ben is writing is to be successful and well-read then the author must not only write something interesting but must engage the reader and develop some empathy, some consideration for those who disagree with him and indeed those like LFAT and Iain Dale who dispute that he should be allowed to blog. A good blog receives feedback, and a good blogger responds to this in an effort to increase readership. All of these are aspects of rehabilitation that can easily be missed in traditional education, and especially in artificial environments, like a prison.

The blog can also allow aspects of rehabilitation that the essential isolation of a prison prevents and the environment of prison necessitates, interaction with the real world. Open prisons and day-release towards the end of a sentence have similar effect, but where used give far more liberty than blogging via mail!

My final point is that Ben’s is an excellent blog. I even toyed with the idea of making it a Featured Blog, but the first two I have chosen both relate to injustice, and Ben has made it clear that his life sentence is fair. Ben is intelligent, articulate and direct. Today he addressed an issue others have not and perhaps would not dare to address in the same way. It so happens that I agree with him, but that is not the point. A new viewpoint is welcome, as long as it is coherently argued.

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jailhouselawyer said...

Well said that man! It is good to see brains at work and serious considerations rather than knee-jerk reactions.


Doubting Richard said...

It is my pleasure, thank you for the kind comment. I find Ben's blog refreshing and interesting in the parts where I am inclined to disagree with him as well as when I agree, and will certainly carry on reading it.

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