On the 29th May, less than a week after a demonstration staged outside the Scottish Parliament in protest at my treatment, the administration at Castle Huntly Open Prison, from where I had been transferred at the pretext of having ‘links with a terrorist organisation’, hurriedly held a ‘case management’ meeting to decide on a strategy of neutralising further protests on my behalf and prolonging my time in prison on less obviously vindictive and politically motivated grounds.
The meeting, held at Glenochil high security prison, where I’m currently being held, was attended by an array of prison service employed social workers, psychologists and governors, and chaired by the Deputy Governor of Castle Huntly Prison, James McKay. No-one at the meeting dissented from the view of McKay that although my stay in maximum security should be prolonged and intended to negatively influence the decision of a Parole Board hearing to consider my release in August, in terms of trying to nullify further protests on my behalf and adverse opinion of the prison system it was no longer expedient to maintain the lie that my removal from an open jail had been as a result of my contact with a ‘terrorist’ group on the outside. The public protestations of the group concerned, Anarchist Black Cross, a perfectly legitimate and non-violent prisoner support group, now rendered the lie untenable. It was therefore considered necessary to fabricate other, less potentially counter-productive justifications for sabotaging my chances of parole and keeping me buried in a maximum security prison. Unfortunately for McKay, who had obviously not anticipated the storm of protest that followed my ghosting from Castle Huntly, he had written a report to accompany my transfer in which he explicitly stated that I was being returned to a maximum security prison pending an investigation into my ‘ongoing contact with an extremist group’. I had been provided with a copy of the report which I then passed on to my lawyer Simon Creighton.
I was called briefly before the ‘case management’ meeting and informed by McKay that because of suspicions that I had formed an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with a social worker whilst at Castle Huntly the previous year, I would soon be transferred to Perth maximum security prison and required to do a course in ‘personal relationships’ before being allowed to return to an open prison. When I asked why an allegation without evidence had not been investigated and acted on at the time I was confronted by a hostile silence. It was clear that everyone at the meeting, social workers, psychologists, senior prison staff had colluded in supporting and providing legitimacy for what was in reality a blatant stitch-up; a senior psychologist from Perth prison who was also at the meeting agreed that I should be transferred to Perth for a course that in fact did not exist. No prison in the Scottish Prison Service provides any such courses in ‘personal relationships’ and everyone at the meeting must have known that. The real purpose of the meeting of course was to rubber-stamp my continued stay in maximum security conditions to coincide with my parole hearing in August.
A fortnight after the meeting I was informed by a senior member of staff at Glenochil that because the ‘personal relationship’ course had been a fiction I would remain in high security conditions to be ‘psychologically risk-assessed’ instead. In fact, I had already been ‘risk-assessed’ by a senior forensic psychologist in 2003 and his opinion was that I presented absolutely no danger or risk to the public and should be transferred to an open prison in preparation for complete release. Nothing whatsoever had occurred between that ‘risk-assessment’ in 2003 and my removal from Castle Huntly open jail in April this year to justify either my ghosting back to a maximum security jail or yet another ‘risk assessment’. Nothing that is apart from the rubbish written about Anarchist Black Cross by the reactionary American social worker Matt Stillman.
There is now little doubt that a suitably compliant prison system hired psychologist will be used to provide yet another pretext to extend my time in prison and shore up with a degree more apparent plausibility the absurd lies of the now discredited Stillman.
The solidarity shown towards me by supporters on the outside, however, has produced cracks and divisions in the ranks of prison officialdom, and Audrey Park, the Governor of Glenochil, has now broken rank and insisted that the inexorable intensification of protest on my behalf be defused by returning me to an open prison. On the rock of solidarity their wave of repression is being broken and there is now a mood of desperation characterising their attempts to keep the cell door closed on me. In the face of their deceit and inhuman attempts to deny me freedom after 25 years in prison my defiance remains implacable and unyielding, and I will continue to fight their vicious abuse of power as I’ve done for the last quarter of a century. In the words of the Uruguayan poet and writer Eduardo Galeano, “We are as small as the fear we feel, and as big as the enemy we choose”.
Friends of John Bowden