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Solidarity With John Bowden

Solidarity | 27.04.2007 09:31 | Repression | World

Take a few minutes to help support a prisoner.

Long-term prisoner resister John Bowden is currently being targeted by the Scottish Prison Service because of his contact with the Anarchist Black Cross.

Please take a few moments out of your daily scheduale to drop John a card, and send one reading 'Hands Off John Bowden' to the SPS.

John Bowden, 6729, HMP Glenochil, King O' Muir Road, Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, FK10 3AD. Scotland.

Scottish Prison Service Headquarters, Communications Branch, Room 338, Calton House, 5 Redheughs Rigg, Edinburgh, EH12 9HW. Scotland E-mail:

Related stories:

The following is the introduction to John excellent pamphlet 'Tear Down The Walls!', published by Leeds ABC -

Introduction to 'Tear Down The Walls!' (written by Mark Barnsley)

Over the past 10 years or so, the British prison system has been able to claw back almost all of the concessions to humanity an earlier generation of prisoners fought tooth and nail to achieve. The State did not achieve this without resistance, and sometimes robust and significant resistance, such as the full-scale uprising at Full Sutton prison in 1997, but nonetheless it was accomplished. Resistance against tyranny is inevitable and will always endure, but certainly for the most part, throughout the British penal estate, a culture of selfish conformity has currently replaced one of solidarity and struggle.

When the wheels of repression were first set in motion, and the iron heel of the State began to be placed upon the throat of the British prison struggle, few prison ‘rebels’ had the insight and political consciousness to see what was ahead and realise just how far the system intended to go in their aim of crushing the prison struggle once and for all. It was easy to be a rebel when everyone was a rebel, but harder as the ‘divide and rule’ tactics of the State began to take their toll on solidarity by means of the ‘incentives and earned privileges scheme’. It was harder as the number of militants was reduced by naked brutality and the reintroduction of control units; when the landings of the prisons became flooded with smack; and when many one-time ‘rebels’ bailed out for an easy life on the ‘Enhanced’ wings while former comrades suffered in the blocks and units. Sometimes it is easy to be a rebel, but it is harder to be a revolutionary, and for the most part, only those with a genuine revolutionary political consciousness were able to remain true in the face of the dark winds of repression, and find the strength and courage to keep on fighting back. John Bowden is one of these.

I first met John on the exercise yard of Full Sutton maximum security prison in 1998 or 1999, and we quickly became close friends and comrades. John has a personal strength and integrity which shines like a beacon, and a deep level of intelligence and insight, qualities which have made him an accomplished prison organiser and militant, always at the forefront of resistance and struggle wherever the Prison Service ‘ghost-train’ has taken him. You always knew that John would back you up to the hilt, and that once you engaged with the enemy retreat was not an option!

Our first joint initiative was to try to get a proper campaign going to shut down the Woodhill torture unit, with a call for regular protests outside the jail and solidarity actions by prisoners. The ink was barely dry on our call to arms though when John was ghosted to Parkhurst, Britain’s ‘Alcatraz’ on the Isle of Wight. At least one protest outside Woodhill did materialise however, along with a solid prisoners work-strike at Full Sutton.

While John was in the block we corresponded regularly, and continued to swap ideas as well as the prison censor allowed. I was able to organise a number of other work-strikes, sit-outs, and protests at Full Sutton, a militant atmosphere reigned, and a full-scale uprising was only narrowly nipped in the bud. Then the TVs were brought in, and I was ghosted myself!

A few days after arriving on the wing at Long Lartin, I was astonished to see John, we couldn’t believe they’d been stupid enough to put us on the same wing! The plotting began anew! It didn’t last long though, within a few weeks we were caught up in a quite extraordinary situation, which was to see both of us ghosted, and me in the block for the rest of the year. Clearly wanting rid of us, a situation was engendered where we were locked in a cell, together with 4 others, and then accused of barricading it! Despite the fact that we could go nowhere, the whole wing was locked up and moved to another location, all staff leave was cancelled, and extra screws were brought in from other jails along with the police. Nine hours after the six of us had been locked in the 2 metre x 2 metre cell, screws in full riot gear came in with a water-cannon, and they and their dozens of colleagues beat us all the way to the block. As I was collapsing into unconsciousness on the floor of the anti-protest cell into which I’d been thrown, I could hear John being brought down shouting, “Is that the best you can do you cowards, can’t you hit me any harder than that?!”

Nearly a year later, when I was briefly out of segregation, John was put on my wing at Frankland prison near Durham. However, we barely had chance to shake hands when the screws rushed on to say that there’d been a mistake and that he was on the wrong wing. They were so desperate to accommodate him elsewhere, they put John on the ‘Enhanced’ wing! A few days later I was back down the block accused of “fermenting unrest” (sic.) and off to Wakefield!

Even when we were in different nicks though, John proved a valuable comrade and ally, and we were able to jointly organise other initiatives such as solidarity actions in support of the Turkish hunger-strikers and prisoners in the Spanish FIES isolation units. Wherever John was I always knew that he would be constantly working against the system in whatever way he could!

There is no doubt that John is a man of action, a soldier, someone who will physically stand his ground and walk the walk as well as talk the talk. But, he is also a hugely articulate writer who expresses his political ideas clearly and cogently, and is never afraid to speak his mind irrespective of the personal consequences. And John certainly has been punished for speaking out, in ways that many who have never known the tyranny of prison life may find hard to believe possible. Believe it, for there are no depths to the barbarity and inhumanity of the system and its turn-key lackeys. And believe this too: John Bowden has never been intimidated by the grinding brutality he has suffered, the long years of isolation have never caused him to surrender. He remains defiant, unvanquished, unbowed, every inch the human-being that the cowards who have beaten him and kept him chained can never aspire to be.

Leeds ABC are honoured to be able to publish this pamphlet. In Unbroken! John shares his story with us; a tale of inhumanity and resistance to that inhumanity, of a political awakening in the dark dungeons which the State prefers left unlit, and above all of solidarity and the struggle to maintain personal integrity in the face of the most terrible adversity. In Prison – A Crime Against Humanity John shows, clearly and concisely, why prisons can never be ‘reformed’ and must be destroyed absolutely.

Insights into the closed prison world of blocks and control units are rare, and in writing about this world for us, John Bowden is once again risking more than many would care to sacrifice themselves. All we can do is offer him our solidarity. Tear down the walls!



Hide the following 15 comments

there was a victim to his crimes

27.04.2007 13:20

Just before anybody gets to excited about this hero of the struggle let's not forget Bowden beat a man to death in a drunken brawl. This was no great political act he did, he was not fighting for someones rights or to defend them. He got pissed and killed someone. He had no involvement with politics until it suited him.

Yes he's had a tough time in prison. Maybe he deserved it

my ten pennies worth

Q) I've got 10p. What can you buy for 10p ?

27.04.2007 14:25

A) 2 caramac bars when he went in. Not even one now.

"Yes he's had a tough time in prison. Maybe he deserved it"

More than quarter of a century inside ? When the two others were released long ago ? Are you mistaking him for some sort of mass child murderer. This guy has been inside since before the Falklands war - were you even born then ? Have you even spent a night in solitary ? Have you never done anything shameful you regret ?

After even 12 years inside you aren't being punished for the crime, you are being punished for your attitude, just to make an example of you. So how much longer is going to be added onto his sentence for daring to criticise the prison system in an anarchist leaflet ? You know prison officers in Scotland dress up in Ku Klux Klan costumes don't you - google it if you don't. Whose side are you on ? Remind me, how many police-officers were convicted of stiching up the Guildford 4 or the Birmingham 6 ?
Third-world justice just shows up a third-world country.


Support John Bowden

27.04.2007 14:38

It's true John Bowden killed someone, he has never pretended otherwise, nor has he tried to make out that there was any political reason for this killing. But that was nearly 30 years ago. John Bowden is Britain's most articulate and insightful prison writer, and has been actively involved in the prison struggle for over 25 years. He has helped to expose miscarriages of justice, including that suffered by the 'Birmingham 6', and to expose numerous acts of brutality against prisoners, writing in support of those who do not have a voice themselves, and often putting his own neck on the line. John Bowden has won the respect of his fellow prisoners everywhere he has been, and he has been to every corner of the British penal gulag. Our solidarity cannot be defined by the senseless actions of a brutalised 22-year old nearly 30 years ago, but by the reality of today.

Black & Red

Stupid comment

27.04.2007 14:41

So how long should he serve for beating a man to death.

Ten years
Five years
A year
A month

Yes I did things I regret when I was younger, in some cases I was punished, in others not. If I had murdered anyone I would expect to go away for Life.

my ten pennies worth

10p of insight?

27.04.2007 15:16

Well you don't get much insight for 10p after all. John Bowden actually stabbed someone, he didn't beat anyone to death, but to fixate on something that happened more than a quarter of a century ago is stupid and reactionary. John Bowden isn't a child killer or mass murderer, and the reason he is currently being held in 'closed conditions' have nothing to do with the murder he committed nearly 30 years ago, and everything to do with his contact with the ABC (as the Scottish Prison Service have explicitly stated.) Even the SPS were previously preparing him for release - so even they have a little more insight than our sanctimonious friend.



27.04.2007 15:49

" If I had murdered anyone I would expect to go away for Life."

John Bowden has spent over 25 years being kicked from one segregation unit to another. Hasn't he already spent his life inside? Or do you actually think life sentence prisoners should be locked up forever, something which is arguably infinitely more cruel than hanging them, and which puts you to the Right of almost everyone on the British political spectrum?

Black & Red

'Maybe he deserved it'?!

27.04.2007 16:17

'Yes he's had a tough time in prison. Maybe he deserved it '

John has spent years in segregation, and suffered some horrendous beatings at the hands of prison guards. He once described how, while in the seg unit of Winson Green, the screws would come back pissed after lunch, the prisoners could hear them deciding which number cell they'd unlock. Then they'd unlock some poor bastard and beat the living shit out of them while the other prisoners had to listen.

Tough time? John Bowden spent his childhood in borstals and 'child institutions', being brutalised by adults in the State's employ. Hardly surprising he was turned into a young thug. He may have taken a life, but he has lost his own life, spending it in the state's worst hellholes and dungeons, suffering what has frequently amounted to torture.

John Bowden has never said that his victim deserved it, so what makes you so callous that you think anyone deserves what John has suffered Mr 10p?

If you had half an ounce of political savvy, you'd see that the real 'monsters' are rich and wear suits - and they never go to prison - unlike poor sods like John Bowden, who is still in jail for fighting back when many would not have had the strength or courage to do so, and for others as well as himself.

Charlie Drake

he did a terrible thing, but since then he has changed

03.05.2007 22:44

i don't know where your getting your information from, but you are both a bit deluded.
John did not stab someone, him and 2 other men, and maybe a woman, canne mind, lured a drunk back to a flat, and put him in a boiling hot bath, hacked some of his limbs of while he was still alive. he even got one of his co-d's to keep his head in a fridge.
john got a 25 year scentence and i think the others got 15, cos john was known to be the ring-leader, and had a habit of violence and theft from poor working class or underclass people.
its not as though he robbed or hurt a rich or powerful member of the elite, but preyed on his own kind.

on the other handm,having read several of his writings,etc i think he is another voice who articulates well what being a con, esp a lifer is like. and he has stuck his neck out for sticking up for other people.

it was a long time ago, and though i think it is horrible what he done to a fellow working class person, i think he has served his time and is meant to be out in june, and i hope he gets released.


A few facts

07.05.2007 13:09

John Bowden was 24 at the time he was convicted, his co-defendents were 28 and 49.

The victim of the killing was a man drinking in their company. He was killed with a knife, and his body dismembered before being disposed of.

It was not a factor in the trial, nor something known to the accused, but the victim of this murder was a convicted sex-offender.

All killings are nasty and unpleasant, but John Bowden isn't being kept in jail because of this murder, he is there for the politics he espouses today.


well said anon, also re"he had no interest in politics till suited him

07.05.2007 17:09

John Bowden isn't being kept in jail because of this murder, he is there for the politics he espouses today.

Today with the new S.O.C.P.A. more peeps are getting done for political protests and stuff, rather than this serious crime these pigs r meant to be addressing - why ain't they out getting nonces.

maybe u 2cents, who may never have considered prison a possibillity, could end up inside, even if only for weeks and months rather than years and decades.
It don't really "suit" many prisioners to become politically aware when they were not before, they clock how the other political and/or class war prisioners and prision resistance and activist cons r treated.
Not too many anarchists in the ranks of the POA.

are you still gonna stick to your politics, and have solidarity with other cons or keep yer head down.

john used to discuss politics a lot with me when we were in contact, never met him, but every book or political ramblings i went on, john had read or knew the gist of most of the books i was reading, and some i had read. He even sent me his copy of Revolutionary Suicide when i wanted to re-read it, and did not know where my copy was cos i was homeless and most nights in a tiny room in a b and b.

he did not become political when it suited him. he realised the true nature of the class war inside, as many have including george jackson and malcolm x.

he chose to do hard time, solidarity with other prisioners and resistance, which obviously carries a price.

in solidarity


Total wankers masquerading as anarchists

07.05.2007 20:43

I've seen a lot of numptys discussing this all over the place, more interested in what John is in jail for than why he is in jail today. Total wankers masquerading as anarchists. Yeah, John Bowden killed someone - very bad - and then he and some others had to get rid of the body. You cunts have probably never had to think of this, but how the fuck do you get rid of a body without chopping it up? Unpleasanr but true.


re:the other caroline. he didn't choose based on class

08.05.2007 08:53

Just noticed there is someone else here posting in my name, well its my middle name which is why i have now put a m in front.
To the other Caroline, I don't really think John was thinking about the class of the person he killed at the time, but agree that murder is a bad thing, but he has already done his time for murder, and done a lot more than some nonces get.

What is happening now is that he is being kept hostage by the state for his political beliefs.

They are trying to get him to renounce his anarchist and prision views; which John has too much integrity to do.

I'm glad you are going to support him - I suggest you, jimmy, red and black and any one else who wants to show solidarity with someone being kept inside for political beliefs, write to them a.s.a.p.

in solidarity

m.caroline F.T.S.

He's done his time

08.05.2007 09:16

I don't think John Bowden was thinking about the class of the person he killed either. Most murder victims are killed by people they know and associate with, and I hardly think it likely that John Bowden would have been drinking with her majesty the Queen. I am middle-aged now, but when I was younger i can think of many times when I was been in scraps or situations where I could very easily have killed someone. How long did Lesley Grantham do in jail for killing a cabbie? Less than 10 years I think. And it is right, how many nonces do 25 years? There aren't many. It's obvious that John Bowden is being kept inside for his political principles, not for what he did all those years ago, something I think he is probably very sorry for - after all he has lost his life too.


lol joe

08.05.2007 10:05

yeah true Joe. anyway it would not be right for someone decent and honest to be drinking with some nasty, selfish lazy parasite. john is too much of a human to be drinking with the likes of that scum.

m.caroline F.T.S.

re drinking with that scum - i mean the queen

08.05.2007 13:50

Re my last comment, i was replying to another good comment written by Joe, who said you did not ex[epect john to be drinking with the queen. so when i said that john is too much a human to drink with selfish lazy parasites like that - i mean the queen is a lazy selfish parasite. someone just pointed out that someone might read the last comment and think i meant john, but what i was saying is john has too much integrity to drink with a member of the elite who got where she is by her ancestors being the best robbers and mass murders, and probly never went to jail for 25 yrs neither

m.caroline F.T.S.
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