A Free Mann At Last
The only actual crime Keith Mann committed was to cause £6000 worth of damage to three slaughterhouse lorries and plan to damage of a battery farm. However, persuaded that a bag of weedkiller constituted bomb-making equipment, the judge sentenced him to fourteen years in prison as a terrorist. The sentence was eventually commuted to eleven upon appeal. Then, without warning, he was suddenly released in March. In an article written four days into his freedom Keith Mann describes the surprise...
Some strange things have happened over my years inside but by far and away the strangest was being told it was all over and I was free to go. Just a few weeks earlier the management of Parkhurst had refused point blank to allow me any time out to readjust before my full term was served (December '99) on the rather bizarre grounds that - in their opinion - the public wouldn't approve. Meanwhile my application for parole was delayed by a month because the paperwork wasn't complete so would now not be heard until March 9th.
March 22nd: I was sat in the TV room out of the way while my cell was being searched- when I was told by a screw that "subject to the paperwork you're out on Friday". As I wasn't really paying that much attention to him, more expecting a moan about something or other I shouldn't have in my cell, I had to ask him to repeat himself which he did. I told him I was still unconvinced by what I was hearing, so he elaborated saying the parole clerk had phoned with the message but wouldn't be sending the required paperwork until the following day. It was a long wait for that to come.
The next day two friends were down to visit, and it was during this time that I was able to get it confirmed for sure that I was indeed going to be getting out on the Friday, by getting a trustworthy screw to phone the parole clerk who also said the paperwork was on the wing waiting for my return. Sure enough by 4pm Tuesday I was certain I was going home. This was the weirdest thing.
For six and a half years I'd coped swimmingly with the passing of the hours, days and weeks but all of a sudden time was standing still. Gate fever is often talked about as the condition prisoners suffer from just prior to their release and I went down with a severe dose - hot flushes, irritable, sleepless nights and no desire for food whatsoever. The news was welcome though. Had I had to run the full term of my sentence I expect I'd have had to 'suffer' this for much longer.
A few of us had our parole hearings on the same day but I was the only one to get a positive result so I was quite a novelty for the next few days. So many people wanted to shake my hand and wish me luck; just as many wanted to get their hands on whatever material things I was going to be leaving behind including my lycra shorts, socks, stereo, tapes, food and phonecards. You also usually have to go through a ritual leaving ceremony like being tied up in a bath of cold water type of thing, but I managed to avoid this and came out unscathed.
Up at 1.45am (bed at midnight) my cell was opened up at 7.45am - the longest night of my life. I went straight in the shower. By 8.30 I was on the way to reception with my things and passed through the C wing exercise yard where Geoff Sheppard was. We got to say our goodbyes - bit sad that. His next shot at parole is in November but he'll have done his lot in Feb 2000 anyway if he gets a knock back. Twenty minutes later I'd signed out, was given the £40 discharge grant and £5 travel warrant and let out of the gate into the arms of my long suffering girlfriend. We've both enjoyed looking forward to this day and all that follows it, but the Prison Service have gone out of their way to make things as unpleasant as possible by shipping me around the country's prisons, interfering with our visits, both strip searching and assaulting her and even banning her from visiting me for life before changing their little minds...all for what? To make us both stronger and more determined than ever to change the world.
We took the ferry away from the island - that was the discharge grant gone - and good riddance to the place. Since then (I wrote this four days after leaving) I have just been doing 'normal' things and enjoying every moment. The weirdest thing about being free after all those years in prison is the fact that it isn't really weird at all, it's just like it should be, like I haven't been away. I was primed to expect everything to be different, the traffic to be heavier, life too fast, paranoia........not a bit of it. I'm in the best of company, am getting well fed and watered, been on the beach with the dogs and out shopping...all normal and everyday but utterly enjoyable.
We've no real plans just yet but are open to offers. What is certain is the extent of my gratitude to all of you for the support you've given me through my sentence - it's immense. Equally the help you have been when the prisons etc have needed reminding about the service they're supposed to be providing - all this has long term effects for present and future POWs.
I've got some catching up to do and I'm itching to get on with it, albeit at a leisurely pace. I have had the law laid down to me with regard to what I can and cannot do and I really have to be careful what I say and write and can't afford to get arrested....not that I have any desire to because that would see me recalled to finish off the eleven years and I don't need that. I will always have the passion for animal welfare they wanted me to lose so badly; the Parole Board used it as a negative factor a year ago. It isn't something you can switch off as you know...it only gets stronger. In fact it isn't so much a passion for animal welfare as a passion for animal liberation. That's what I want and that's what I'll be working for one way or the other for Animal Liberation.