In 1982 I was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the trial judge’s reccomendation that I should serve at least 25 years before the Parole Board would consider my release. Legally, therefore, the trial judge had authorised my detention until 2005, after which a judicial body; the Parole Board, would have to authorise my continued detention. In the case of prisoners sentenced to life in jail, they are in fact set “tariffs”, which are the minimum and specific length of time they are to be detained in the interests of retribution and punishment. Once that “tariff”, or period of imprisonment, has been served the continued detention of the lifer must be authorised by the Parole Board. That is the law. It is a law also underpinned by Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In June of 2011, SIX YEARS after the expiry of my “tariff” and the original trial judge’s recommendation, the Parole Board finally reviewed my detention. After a brief hearing, they authorised my continued detention for a further twelve months. That twelve months has now passed and I remain in jail with no sign of when my imprisonment is likely to be “reviewed” again. I am therefore being detained unlawfully.
The average sentence of imprisonment for holding a person unlawfully against their will, usually referred to as hostage taking, is ten years.
The prison authorities have persuaded a compliant Parole Board that although I represent little or no risk to the wider community, (a prime criterion for releasing life sentence prisoners), I am however a prisoner of strong “anti-authoritarian” beliefs and ideas centred on my relationship with the prison system, and fuelled by my contact with politically “subversive” groups on the outside. That primarily is why I remain imprisoned, and imprisoned unlawfully at the moment.
In 1982 I was sentenced to life imprisonment with two other men. Both were “model prisoners” and both were released almost 20 years ago. I remain in jail because of my activities in organising and protesting against a prison system that routinely and systematically abuses prisoners’ basic human rights. Indeed, by continuing to detain me without proper legal authorisation, my own basic human rights are being breached.
If the prison authorities are determined to detain me, even unlawfully, unless I compromise my basic human integrity by never questioning or challenging their abuses of power, then I am prepared to die in here. Before surrendering what is vital to my humanity, my spirit of resistance, I would sooner surrender my very life and existence. In fact, true human survival in prison has a fairly straightforward root: A refusal to compromise, even where there is nothing to gain. So if my captors have to now break the law to continue imprisoning me, so be it.
“You left me my lips.
You took away all the oceans and all the room.
You gave me my shoe-size with bars around it.
Where did it get you? Nowhere.
You left me my lips, and they shape words, even in silence.”
Please send letters and cards of support to John at:
HM Prison Shotts,
The Parole Board,
99-105 Horsferry Road,
You can download John Bowden’s pamphlet ‘Tear Down The Walls!’ free of charge from the Leeds ABC website at: http://leedsabc.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Tear-Down-The-Walls-2010.pdf
Another recent article about John’s situation: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2012/09/500392.html
A Day of Action in support of John Bowden is being organised for Friday 19th October. Call-out will be released shortly. Please start organising support activities. John Bowden deserves our solidarity.