Can A Good Woman Change The Life Of Prisoner

have always chosen to remain anonymous, as you know - for now I wish to remain the "Ed" on Ben's blog.

But the answer to your question is both yes and no. A woman's love can give a man hope, but ultimately it is up to them to decide within themselves to change.

I found Ben gathering dust at HMP Shepton Mallet, forgotten about and heading down the slippery slope of spending the rest of his life locked away. He had given up trying to get out and was only interested in fighting the system he had been a part of, and one could say a victim of, for 30 years. Having been in prison since childhood, it was the only life he knew as an adult.

I suppose you could say I gave him hope. And slowly, slowly he raised his head enough to look beyond the wall - something which he had stopped allowing himself to do.

Every setback, the despair you will both feel, the prison visits - feeling like a second class citizen then having to build a mental bubble around the 2 of you for the short time you have together - can be a huge strain and take their toll on the woman's physical and emotional well-being. You have to be prepared for all this and the possibility that it may not even work out long term.

I would advise anyone getting involved with a prisoner to think long and hard about the road they are about to tread, and to take off the rose tinted glasses. If you feel in your heart that you can cope, then go for it. But you have to be strong. The worst thing would be to give someone hope then abandon them. In my opinion, you have to see it through or walk away at the beginning.

Ben is not a great risk, or a repeat criminal. He committed murder at the age of 14 and took it upon himself to investigate and change whatever was in him that made him commit that crime. For Ben, the change needed was to persuade him that there is life outside the prison walls, and that his need to try and change the system from within could be channelled into less destructive (for him) methods of challenging power.

Having a voice in the form of the blog has helped him develop as a writer and enabled him to bring to attention issues that have been kept from the public gaze. Life behind bars, the often corrupt prison system, the need for reform etc. Gradually he has started focussing on life outside and stopped shooting himself in the foot. But is has been a hard road.

Ben's Blog Editor