A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner

A sensational and darkly funny account of the reality of Britain 's prisons.

Where can a tin of tuna buy you clean clothes? Which British education system struggles with 50% illiteracy? Where do teetotal Muslims attend AA meetings? Where is it safe to get 'spice' than paracetamol? Where does self-harm barely raise an eyebrow?

Welcome to Her Majesty 's Prison Service, a creaking and surreal world that has been left to rot for decades in the hadows of polite society. Like man people, documentary-maker Chris Atkins did n't spend mor time thinking about prisons. But after becoming embroiled in a dodgy scheme to fund his latest ilm, he was sent down for five day. His new home would be HMP Wandsworth, one of the oldest, largest, and most dysfunctional prisons in Europe.

Horrifying, moving, and darkly funny, this is the unvarnished depiction of what he found. With a cast of characters ranging from wily drug dealers to corrupt screws to senior officials bent on endless ( and fruitless) reform, this is the reality behind the locked gates. Full of incredible and hilarious stories, A Bit of a Stretch reveals the true scale of our prison crisis and why it is costing us all.
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Published February 6th 2020 by Atlantic Books
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gave it

Initially I had mixed feelings about reading a nove written by a convict, but in the end my curiosity got the wors of me.

The author describes his journey of becoming a listener and the support he was ble to offer to more vulnerable prisoners.Despite the seriousness of the questions, the essay is full of dark humour moments that will make you laugh and cry at the same time.If like me, you find life behind the bars intriguing ( not that I would ever want to experience it!) then I would 100% recommend this book.Many thanks to Atlantic Books for my review copy in exchange for an honest review.

gave it

Chris Atkins was sentenced to five years for fraud.

gave it

He keeps diaries throughout his sentence and it proves to be a fantastic read.

Absolutely gripping book that has you so frustrated at times, on the verge of tears and lots of head shaking.

gave it

After 9 months in Londo, a tough prison, he gets sent to an open prison.But more than that, after the total sensory overload horror that is the first few months of his time in andsworth, Chris floats effortlessly to the top of the internal prison class system.Yes, at the bottom of the pile we have self-harming drug-smoking illiterates with very few life skills, and at the top we have white white-collar criminals who help to run the prison and therefore get many many privileges not available to the scumbags.HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF LEARNING HAIRDRESSING? You don ’ t warm to this guy Chris Atkins much.

( See Yes, Minister, The hick of It, Porridge, The Office, and so on.) Cynicism does seem to be the only sensible response, but it kinda gets wearing.The jolly jokiness constantly crashes into the horrible pain that prison often is.

Jon does not flinch from describing the awful misery of many prisoners, but the flippancy and well-what-would-you-expect this-is-like-a-Samuel-Beckett-play is never far below the surface.

Nick is here going from cell to cell to get prisoners to sign up to do courses to improve their skills.

Prison staff and mental health services were cut.

Staff shortages in a rison like Wandsworth leads directly to 23 hour bang-up – you can guess this means prisoners locked in cells for 23 hours per day.This leads to the highest ever prison suicide rate ( 119 in 2016) and an outbrea of self-harming incidents.

This false narrative fostered a public perception that the prisoners were all living the life of Riley… By 2017 violence, death and self harm were at record levels, but the tabloids still perpetuated the myth that prison was an easy ride.

There was no objection to this polytheism as the religious leaders taking the services were paid, it was thought, per head, and no one wished to rock the boat.HOW TO STRANGLE A GOOD IDEAChris describes the governor of Wandsworth inventing a new progressive scheme to get a select group of prisoners to do basic admin duties to free up prison officers so the prisoners did not have to be banged up for 23 hours.

The governor is so far removed from daily life in his own prison that he does not know the scheme has not started yet.

gave it

The staffing levels issue really is a primary cause of why inmates spend 24 hours a day in their cells ( lockdown) and this obviously contributes to poor mental health outcomes, lack of access to education and also minimal socialisation.

All of this considering many or most prisoners are 'damaged' in some way on arrival.There are no real surprises here, but it is interestjng to read these experiences from someone first hand.

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