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Letter from John Bowden: ‘I Leave Prison Unbroken, My Political Integrity Uncompromised And Unyielding’ (UK)

On the 20th February, the Parole Board finally agreed to my release after forty years of my imprisonment and four previous parole hearings when my release was denied not because I represented a risk or danger to the public but because I was labelled an “anti-authoritarian” prisoner with links to anarchist and communist groups on the outside, specifically Anarchist Black Cross and the Revolutionary Communist Group.

Following a parole knockback of my release last year, I instigated a Judicial Review of the decision. Which although it did not succeed fired a judicial shot across the bows of the Parole Board and Ministry of Justice. And persuade them that future decisions on my release or not would have to be based on proper legal criteria. Specifically, whether my continued imprisonment could be justified in the Interests of public protection and-not just because I was labelled a “difficult prisoner” by the – prison authorities.

So, the parole panel considering my case in February of this year had to admit there was no real lawful justification for my continued imprisonment and so reluctantly agreed to my release. However, in its written decision, the Parole Board claimed that my “current risk factors” included “anti-authority views” and “attitudes supportive of the use of violence.” It also wrote: “During your sentence, you have evidenced that you have a mistrust of those in authority and professionals have previously reported that if you felt unfairly treated or discriminated against, coupled with any engagement with anti-social peers, then this could increase your risk of violence. Your attitude towards authority and your personality characteristics have also been considered by professionals to present a potential challenge in your future risk management.”

Focusing specifically on my contact with prisoner support on the outside the parole decision report says:. ‘it is clear from official reports that you have passionate political views and during your sentence, you have engaged with groups that have been described as anarchist groups (specifically Anarchist Black Cross). You stated that these groups could be forthright and radical in their protests, but they were not terrorist groups and did not advocate violence.

You told the panel that you’ve had a lot of time on your hands in prison, and this has facilitated your contact with such groups and your general interest in criminal and social justice, equality, unfairness and inequality.” It then concludes with “The panel accepted that your passion for standing up for people whom you believe need support is unlikely to impact adversely on your risk to the outside community. However, the panel was mindful that when you were previously at large having escaped you were helped considerably by associates you had met through these groups and therefore it would need to be borne in mind that you might be provided with assistance if you disengage with supervision in the community”.

However, in its final decision, the parole Board admitted that my actual risk or danger to the public was minimal and therefore there was no lawful reason why I should remain imprisoned, and on the 13th March the Ministry of Justice agreed to my release.

Despite 40 years of imprisonment I finally emerge from prison unbroken and my political integrity uncompromised and unyielding, and I want to deeply thank all the comrades who have supported me during my long imprisonment and provided me with the strength to maintain my struggle, especially comrades in Anarchist Black Cross and the Revolutionary Communist Group. I salute you, comrades!

John Bowden
HMP Warrenhill
March 2020

More of John Bowden’s writings are available here and here.

Additional note: John was released yesterday [25 March 2020]. Please check Brighton ABC website for future statements…

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2020 at 9:43 pm and is filed under Prison Struggle.