Posts Tagged ‘John Bowden’
Letter from John Bowden: ‘I Leave Prison Unbroken, My Political Integrity Uncompromised And Unyielding’ (UK)
Thursday, March 26th, 2020
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.” (more…)
“Hardship has Tempered me and Turned my Mind to Steel” – Letter by radical long-term prisoner John Bowden about his parole process (UK)
Friday, October 25th, 2019
The situation with my parole remains bizarrely uncertain, and it has now become obvious that it is not the parole board that is deciding matters but the Justice Ministry itself. Unfortunately my Judicial Review fell at the first hurdle after my initial optimism when the first judge to consider my case decided there did appear to be a breach of proper legal procedure in the way the Justice Ministry refused to refer my case back to the parole board when the board’s supposed dissatisfaction with the length of time the probation service had arranged for me to spend in a parole hostel if released was put to rest when the hostel concerned informed the board that they were prepared to accept me for as long as was considered necessary.
The judge then gave the Justice Ministry 21 days to present a defence as to why I remained in prison still when there was clearly no real public protection justification for my continued imprisonment. 21 days later the Justice Ministry presented a “defence” claiming that it wasn’t just the issue of a long-term hostel place that had influenced the parole board’s decision to deny my release, but also my “aggressive anti-authority authority”, which it was unable to give any specific examples of in terms of breaches of discipline reports, etc. This was a blatant moving of the goalposts and unfortunately the different judge this time to consider the case, and who had obviously been “briefed” about my prison history and politicisation, swallowed the re-manufactured bullshit to justify my continued imprisonment and dismissed my action. (more…)
Saturday, October 12th, 2019
There is a group of prisoners who although imprisoned for non-political offences subsequently become politicised or radicalised whilst in jail, and in both the USA and Britain this is a phenomenon that has become increasingly widespread.
In the USA during the 1960s and 70s the radicalisation of ordinary black prisoners, in particular, was fostered by the centrality of imprisonment in the experience of black activists and revolutionaries like Malcolm X (who described prisons as “universities of revolution”), Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson, H Rap Brown, Angela Davis and others. George Jackson described his own politicisation succinctly: “I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels, and Mao when I entered prison and they redeemed me”.
Thus those whom W.E.B. Dubois described as an “army of the wronged” increasingly defined themselves as political prisoners who were the products of an oppressive political-economic order. This belief underpinned the praxis of radical groups such as the Black Panthers and Symbionese Liberation Army, and prisons were seen as the epicentre of a broader social and political revolution. The call for recognition of radicalised prisoners claim to political status underpinned prisoners’ demands in a series of protests that punctuated the 1970s in U.S. Prisons such as Folsom, Soledad, San Quentin and, later, Attica. (more…)
Thursday, April 4th, 2019
On the 22nd January 2019 after almost forty years in prison the Parole Board considered the case for either my release or continued imprisonment. In the case of life sentence or indeterminately sentenced prisoners once such prisoners have been detained for the length of time originally recommended by the judiciary or Secretary of State, in my case 25 years, then the Parole Board has a statuary and legal obligation and responsibility to review the case for either the release or the continued detention of such prisoners. At three previous parole hearings my release had been denied by the Parole Board on the grounds that I was a “difficult and anti-authoritarian” prisoner, and insufficiently obedient to prison authority; my actual risk or danger to the public, the prime official criteria for denying the release of life sentence prisoners, was never cited as a reason for my continued imprisonment.
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
New mail address for John Bowden following his parole refusal for his prison radicalism and being in contact with the Anarchist Black Cross. Bowden has been recategorised, and moved to Warrenhill, a Catagory C Men’s prison.
Grove Road, Hollesley
He is writing something about this process but in the mean time he asked for his address to be circulated.
Please send a card or letter of solidarity to John to help break the bricks of isolation the authorities wish to impose on him as revenge for challenging them.
It is essential to defend the Anarchist Black Cross and the ability of prisoners to contact the organisation.
Long-term radical prisoner John Bowden denied parole because of his anti-authoritarian views and contact with Anarchist Black Cross groups (UK)
Friday, July 21st, 2017
There is currently a massive population of “post-tariff” life sentence prisoners over-crowding British Prisons. Lifers who remain detained long beyond the time originally recommended by the judiciary or secretary of state, which includes prisoners sentenced under the IPP (‘Imprisonment for Public Protection’) Law. Although this law has been scrapped, it has left a legacy of thousands of prisoners still languishing in jail. Britain has more life sentenced prisoners than the whole of Europe combined, a consequence of a “lock em up and throw away the key” culture and mentality that pervades the bourgeois judiciary and justice apparatus, as well as a Parole Board that exists just to legitimise what is in reality the unlawful detention of thousands of prisoners. “Preventative Detention” was created by the Nazi Party in Germany in 1939 to “cleanse” society of anti-social elements and Britain is a zealous inheritor of that instrument of repression, while British prisons are now little more than modern day concentration camps, full of prisoners with no hope of release.
The collaboration of the Parole Board in unlawfully detaining Post-Tariff lifers who represent little or no actual risk to the community was typified in a parole judgement on my own case in June 2017, when after 37 years of my imprisonment, more than ten years beyond the original judicial recommendation, the board denied my release for nakedly political reasons. Officially, the position of the Parole Board when considering the release of post-tariff life sentence prisoners is determined by evidence of continued “risk to the public” and whether it is necessary for “public protection”. If there is evidence, release is denied. (more…)
Solidarity with John Bowden in court Friday 24th June – Call-out for Solidarity Demo/Banner drops (UK)
Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
Solidarity with John Bowden – Long time prison resister and anti-authoritarian.
Show your support for John Bowden, a vocal writer and critic of the system we all live under, who is in Greenock Sheriff Court in Scotland, on Friday 24th June, after being accused of assault on a prison guard.
Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, John Bowden was at the forefront of the British prison struggle, leading and being involved in serious acts of resistance against the prison system, and was deeply politicised by the experience. Viewed by most prison staff as a committed and dangerous “trouble-maker”, John was often brutally punished, suffering years of brutality and prolonged solitary confinement. He has been victimised, in one way or another, ever since.
In June of last year, after hearing the evidence of an independent psychologist, the Parole Board decided that after 30 years in prison, John Bowden represented no real risk or danger to the community, and like the two men originally imprisoned with him in 1982, who were released almost 20 years ago, he should now be returned to that community. (more…)
Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
Investigating division and conflict amongst the poorest and most oppressed as a means of control has always been a favoured strategy of the ruling class and within it’s prisons (the laboratories of oppression) where the most disempowered experience naked repression the weapon of divide and conquer is sometimes used with murderous effect.
Within the British prison system there exist prisons within prisons, places of concentrated repression where “troublemakers” and those who fight back are sent to be broken, and where those who inflict the repression encourage prisoners to take the rage created by that repression out on each other, thereby generating an unending cycle of violence, which is used to justify the use of even greater repression. (more…)
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015
From a comrade of ABC Brighton:
Either as a political issue or personal experience prison repression isn’t something the radical left in Britain is particularly familiar with or much inclined to mobilise against. Prison remains largely a working class experience targeted against the poorest and most marginalised of that class. However in a society increasingly polarised and divided between rich and poor in a political climate of growing repression and authoritarianism prisons are being refashioned more and more into instruments of political as well as social control. This will eventually find reflection in the nature and composition of the prisoner population as political activists increasingly supplement the imprisoned poor.
What should characterise the behaviour and attitude of imprisoned political activists towards the prison system? How should those imprisoned for political offences against the system in the “free world” behave and respond once incarcerated in the Belly of the Beast, the steel and concrete innards of the state? (more…)
Thursday, June 4th, 2015
From a comrade of ABC Brighton:
Ultimately prisons exist as instruments of state violence, and no matter how legitimized by statuary law their prime function and purpose is to inflict pain and suffering in the interests of social control. They are nothing more than blunt weapons of state power and ruling class authority and for those confined within them the experience of naked vulnerability and brutality is a constant every day reality.
Control within prisons themselves is maintained by a mixture and blend of officially sanctioned violence in the form of riot-squads, control units, segregation-units and “control and restraint teams” and the more unofficial forms of violence inherent in prison gangs and prisoner hierarchies, which ultimately are allowed to exist providing they serve the interests of the system in maintaining the overall prison status quo. Intrinsically prisons embody the iron law that ultimately power equals violence, especially in closed and total institutions like prisons where people, usually the most dispossessed and powerless, are held against their will.
In the UK prisons unofficial violence is an institutionalised and “normal” way whereby prisoners are controlled and terrorised into conforming and it is customary for those officially employed to maintain prison “good order and discipline” to recruit and manipulate prisoners into controlling their fellow captives by any means necessary, even occasionally murder. (more…)
'Woolf Report: 25 Years On & Nothing Has Changed' – An article by John Bowden about the prison system's latest attempt to obstruct his move to an open prison (UK)
Friday, May 1st, 2015
In April this year, the 25th anniversary of the Strangeways prison uprising, Lord Justice Woolf, who led the inquiry into the uprising, claimed that conditions in most British jails were now even worse than they had been before Strangeways erupted in 1990.
The treatment of those prisoners confined to usually overcrowded local remand and post-sentence jails (of which Strangeways was and is one), where the great bulk of the prison population are held, has always been significantly worse than the treatment of prisoners in more long-term establishments where the potential for collective unrest has always been traditionally greater.
Prison staff employed in over crowded local jails argue that the transient and difficult to control and manage population of such institutions, coupled with severe cut-backs in staffing levels, make all but the most basic functions of control and containment extremely difficult if not impossible. The operational reality of such an argument finds expression in virtual lock-down regimes and a wholesale warehousing of prisoners, as well as an overtly repressive response to any perceived potential loss or compromise of total control, all ingredients of what caused the Strangeways prison uprising in 1990.
Greenock prison near Glasgow is an archetypal local jail; antiquated Victorian architecture and conditions, and an attitude and behaviour amongst some staff that is often openly contemptuous of prisoners, underpinned by a relationship of power that renders prisoners always vulnerable to abuse. (more…)
Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
From a comrade of ABC Brighton:
The growth of what some have described as the “prison industrial complex” and the unleashing of economic free market forces upon the prison system by a government ideologically-driven to sell off or “out source” virtually every state function has created the spectre of a prison population utilised as essentially a source of cheap, forced labour for an increasingly avaricious neo-liberal capitalism. There is no starker example of organised modern slavery.
In the US, the epicentre of the prison industrial complex, the exploitation of cheap convict labour takes place on an industrial scale and in poor urban areas, especially districts with a majority poor Afro-American population, prisons are increasingly replacing factories as places where the criminalised poor are confined and exploited by multi-national security corporations.
In Britain, whose criminal justice system is becoming almost a mirror-image of it’s American counterpart, the exploitation of cheap convict labour by private companies is increasingly as is the ownership of entire chunks of the prison system. More and more prisoners are dealt with and treated not as offenders to be rehabilitated but as a source of considerable profit for an economic elite not hamstrung by wishy-washy concepts such as public service or moral conscience in the treatment of prisoners. (more…)
Friday, January 23rd, 2015
From a comrade of ABC Brighton:
The abuse of psychiatry in pathologizing and punishing “difficult” prisoners has a long and disturbing history in the British prison system and is probably the worst example of human rights abuse suffered by some prisoners labelled “challenging” and “unmanageable”.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, especially, the role of prison system-hired psychiatrists in assisting in the suppression of rebellious prisoners became an established one and often an unlawful one too such as when administering tranquillizing drugs by force purely to assist guards in subduing “troublemakers”. The practice became known as the “liquid cosh”. For particularly determined prisoner “troublemakers” the spectre of maximum-security psychiatric hospitals such as Broadmoor and Rampton could quite easily become a reality and often did when psychiatrists were recruited to apply the necessary pathological labels and facilitate the “nutting-off”, or sectioning under the mental health act, of sane but “difficult” prisoners, Rampton, especially, acquired a notorious reputation for it’s brutal and inhuman treatment of prisoners, administered by prison officer “nurses” and punitive-minded psychiatrists, and was considered amongst long-term prisoners as the worst and most deadly weapon of all in the prison system’s armourer of control and punishment. (more…)
Friday, October 24th, 2014
ABC Hurricane are pleased to publish a compilation of some of the writings of John Bowden. They provide a rare insight and history of the prison regime and bring to light cases and stories that normally never see the light of day, but are unfortunately all too common behind prison walls.
Posing no threat to anyone inside or outside prison (according to the Parole Board), the Prison Service is keeping John behind bars due to his continuing work exposing the abuses of the prison system – not just to himself but throughout HMP wings and especially in the darkest, hushed up corners of UK gaols. He has never backed down in the face of all that the regime can throw.
This publication comes at a time when he is calling again for as much pressure to be imposed on the prison authorities in the fight for his release – please spread these texts far and wide. Please get in touch by email if you would like printed copies.
abc-hurricane (at) riseup (dot) net
PDF: Screen Version
PDF: Print Version A4
Solidarity with all those who resist!
Letter appeal on behalf of John Bowden, long-term radical social prisoner, about the criminalisation of the Anarchist Black Cross (UK)
Friday, July 11th, 2014
via a comrade of Anarchist Black Cross Brighton:
In 2007 my association with the Anarchist Black Cross was considered a compelling enough reason by the prison authorities to prevent my release, despite the subsequent exposure of the lies manufactured by a prison administration regarding the nature and activities of ABC.
In the summer of 2007 following my transfer to an open jail, Castle Huntley near Dundee, after almost three decades of imprisonment, a prison-hired social worker at the jail, Matthew Stillman, submitted a report to the Parole Board in which he claimed I was linked to what he described as a “terrorist group”, specifically naming ABC, and had received visits from “terrorists” also linked to ABC. As a consequence of Stillman’s allegation I was transferred back to a maximum-security prison. (more…)