Keeping people in prison for maintaining their innocence: BBC play now postponed

Back in July 2002 I posted a piece on this blog about the monstrous practice of refusing to release prisoners on parole, who would otherwise qualify for it, if they persist in maintaining their innocence of the crime for which they were sent to prison, a sort of Kafka-esque Catch 22 for anyone who has genuinely been wrongly convicted (and we know that such people do exist).  I quoted several examples.  I had commented on this obvious potential injustice in an even earlier post.

Now this comment has been posted on my entry of July 2002:

From paul blackburn
February 26th, 2007 at 4:19 pm

I spent 25 years in prison until I was released & won my appeal. We have just finished a play for  BBC Radio 4 called 2 "In Denial" that will be broadcast on March 16th 2007 at 9 pm.   Please listen in and please pass the word.   Thank you.

I am glad to pass the word as requested and hope the broadcast will be widely heard.  Disturbing details of Mr Blackburn's case can be read here and here.

There's a real scandal here, frequently exposed and still not corrected by a succession of pusillanimous home secretaries. 

Update (10 March 2007):  I have just been told by Mr Blackburn that unfortunately transmission of the play about his case has been postponed, and won't after all be broadcast on 16 March.  But he has been assured that it will be broadcast at some future date.  Watch this space! 


1 Response

  1. Brian says:

    The following informative and humane comment by Bob was posted yesterday, 27 February 2007, under an earlier Ephems piece on this subject, dating back to 2002:

    From Bob 

  2. February 27th, 2007 at 2:47 pm e

    I have great sympathy with Paul and men like him, kept in prison by the cowardice of politicians despite the willingness of parole boards to release them on licence, regardless of any admission of guilt.  In the course of several years as a voluntary worker in a large London prison I have come across similar cases to his — but mostly in the somewhat different context of sex offenders ( most of whom have been found guilty of rape or paedophilia).

    Some of these men continue to deny their guilt despite having been found guilty in court, and this has serious consequences for them because they are not permitted to take the Sex Offender Treatment Programme without first admitting guilt. The SOTP is designed to help them understand the inappropriateness / seriousness of their actions and to help them develop attitudes and behaviour patterns to avoid committing similar offences in future. Without completing this course they have no prospect of early release on licence or – even more relevant in some cases – of transfer to a more open, training prison, where they can start to re-design their life.

    The difficulty for prison staff — officers, psychologists, et al — is that much as they might like to help a prisoner, they can’t start to do so if he refuses to accept his guilt as determined by the court. They can’t re-try him, and have no option but to classify him as being ‘in denial’ . My experience is that there are more sex offenders in denial than not guilty. The former have their own personal, religious, societal and other reasons for refusing to acknowledge their crime; the latter are the tragic victims of a judicial system in which false testimony, bad evidence, poor lawyers and human error are sadly still present.

    PS:  Prison staff have the unenviable job of trying to look after both these minority categories of prisoner,  both of them unhappy with their incarceration and liable to explode because of it.   This is on top of their normal duties with the  vast majority of prisoners who accept their guilt and get on with their sentences as best they can.