Militant prisoner John Bowden has been locked behind bars for more than three decades, and the prison authorities continue to do everything they can to keep him there. In the past, he was punished with beatings and brutality to try and break his spirit, and to stop him participating in organised resistance to prison repression. In more recent years the State have used prison-hired quacks like Matthew Stillman, and now Marc Kozlowski, and scumbag Probation workers like Brendan Barnett to do their dirty work. Despite the recommendations of the Parole Board more than a year ago that John Bowden be moved to an open nick and be prepared for release, the screws are determined to keep John inside.
Below is a recent update on John Bowden’s situation. Leeds ABC are launching a new campaign to get John out of jail, details of a Day of Action, the first salvo in this renewed campaign in support of John, will be posted shortly. We hope that comrades everywhere will join us in supporting John Bowden and in demanding that he be freed from jail.
Manufacturing artificial “Risk factors” to prolong and extend the imprisonment of some life sentence prisoners has become a fairly standard tactic by the prison system, especially in the case of lifers considered potentially “subversive” and “anti-authoritarian”, or those with a significant history of questioning and resisting authority. The complicity and direct involvement of prison-hired “professionals” (psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers) in that victimisation is also an established fact. Indeed the prolonged detention of certain “difficult” lifers would be made considerably more difficult without their assistance.
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. The Parole Board therefore asked the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to transfer John to an open prison in preparation for release twelve months later. At the parole hearing itself, a representative of the SPS agreed to comply with the Board’s request. In reality, however, the SPS had absolutely no intention of preparing John Bowden for release, or even allowing him out of maximum security conditions.
Instead, a “Lifer Liaison Officer” (a senior screw) at Shotts maximum-security jail in Scotland, decided that John Bowden should be “generically assessed” for “offence-related” courses, despite the ultimate risk-assessment body, the Parole Board, after hearing the evidence of both independent and prison-based professionals, deciding that no such courses were in fact necessary. In the face of the Parole Board’s decision, and in defiance of its legal authority, the “Lifer Liaison Officer”, Martin Whiteman, appointed himself as the sole and ultimate decision-maker as to whether or not John Bowden would ever be released. Clearly, his view and personal opinion of John Bowden was deeply coloured and prejudiced by his essential role of prison guard over a prisoner with a “bad” reputation as a “trouble-maker”. Whiteman was also in contact with Brendan Barnett, a social worker employed by Edinburgh City Council, who had been given the responsibility of creating a post-release supervision plan for John Bowden. Barnett had instead written a report for the Parole Board full of lies and prejudice, and is now himself the subject of an investigation by Edinburgh City Chambers, Whiteman and Barnett had obviously colluded, with the aim of preventing John Bowden’s release.
Whiteman also interfered with the so-called “generic assessment” procedure in John Bowden’s case, and persuaded the prison’s “Prisoner Case Management Board” (PCMB), chaired by compliant prison psychologist Marc Kozlowski, to “vote” that John Bowden be made to complete lengthy “offence-related” courses, which have no relevance to John’s current behaviour and character, and are clearly intended to prolong his imprisonment. The PCMB subsequently refused to reveal both the identity of its members, and bearing in mind John’s offence was 30 years ago, what assessment procedure was used to justify his now being made to address patterns of social and criminal behaviour which no longer exist in his life, as clearly evidenced by the prison authorities previously allowing John to work outside with vulnerable members of the community and go on numerous home leaves. The decision of the Parole Board last year was absolutely clear in its view that John Bowden had changed fundamentally and irrevocably since he was imprisoned 30 years ago, and should now be prepared for release. In Martin Whiteman’s view however, John Bowden now, as a person, is probably more threatening and dangerous than the brutalised young man who entered the prison system 30 years ago.
Because John Bowden has refused, on principle, to cooperate with Whiteman’s demand that he attend wholly inappropriate “offence-related” courses, he remains warehoused in a top-security prison while Whiteman writes reports to the Parole Board claiming that John refuses to cooperate with a “Management Plan” and should therefore remain in jail until he dies. John Bowden is now, very clearly, being held in jail because of his history and reputation as a prison militant, and Martin Whiteman is using (and abusing) his position of authority to co-opt compliant “professionals like prison psychologist Marc Kozlowski into legitimising the victimisation of John Bowden.
The abuse of power in prison takes place because individuals like Martin Whiteman are allowed to operate with impunity, and have the support and compliance of middle-class “professionals” like Marc Kozlowski, who willingly provide cover for them. John Bowden, on the other hand, is isolated and powerless, and yet continues to resist and defy his tormentors. He should be supported by anyone who truly understands the significance and importance of the prison struggle.
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
Also check out a pamphlet recently produced by our comrades at Bristol ABC to which John contributed: http://leedsabc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/cscs-torture-units-in-the-uk-screen31.pdf
Please send letters and cards of support to John at:
You can write to the individual who runs Shotts prison at:
HM Prison Shotts,