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Fascinating look at the criminal justice system and the people in it
Prison Diary 3 - Jeffrey Archer
Member Name: julwhite
Prison Diary 3 - Jeffrey Archer
Advantages: Well written, good look at the prison system
Disadvantages: A little short, doesn't cover all of his period in prison
This review is of the hardback book "Prison Diary 3", the third and final volume of Jeffrey Archer's true account of his life in prison. He had been sentenced to four years in prison for perjury, and the first two books cover his first two months in prison.
This book starts on the 15th October 2001 with details of how Archer was moved from Wayland prison to North Sea Camp, an Category C prison (A is the most strict regime, D is the lightest regime). Usually prisoners would have been moved at any earlier stage to an open prison with a similar status, but what turned out to be false allegations were made about him and his dealings with a Kurdish charity.
Archer is a well known fiction author, and often what he writes almost seems made up, such is the ridiculous nature of the British justice system. I had read the previous two books, both of which I highly recommend, and he highlighted gross injustices in the prison system. Archer's writing is very fluid and I read through this book in one sitting, just was its easy to read diary entry system.
When Archer arrived at North Sea Camp, one of the prisoner warders joked that it was known as Butlins, and that ironically there was a Butlins down the road, only they had a wall around it. There was limited security at North Sea Camp, just several roll calls each day to ensure that no prisoner absconded. Indeed, the light regime worried Archer straight away, he knew that he would be entitled to visits into town with good behaviour, and he was worried about how the media would portray that.
There are many stories in the book about the other prisoners, how very many really are gentlemen and are really keen to help others, whereas others remain bullies. Archer seems to be sympathetic to the prison officers, who generally treated him well. He describes other prisoners with a depth of detail that would be expected from the characters he creates in his fiction novels, and it does bring the prison to life.
Archer never gives the impression of being bitter about what was happening to him, despite the incredible pressures upon him, above that of other prisoners. His time at North Sea Camp ended after David Blunkett, the Home Secretary of the time, ordered that he be transferred to a tougher prison because of false media reports that he was having an easy time at North Sea Camp. He spent only a month at Lincoln, a Grade B prison, before being moved to Hollesley Bay, a Grade D prison, and his time here isn't unfortunately covered by his books.
It's also a surprisingly good book for understanding the prison system. He talks for example of the drugs problem in prison, how some prisoners evaded being caught, some took harsher drugs which they knew wouldn't show up, and how the system didn't work. I personally hope that some of what he wrote was taken into account by the prison authorities when looking at criminal justice reform. Too many people seemed to be in prison that didn't need to be, meaning resources were being taken away from those who needed more resources to help them stop re-offending.
The book is relatively short, especially as it's written in a diary style, but it's very accessible and contains lots of details about the nuts and bolts of being in prison, which I also found interesting. There is a menu provided of the various food options, and Archer tells how the kitchen staff joked that he had been in a Category B prison for too long when he handed over his plate for them to put food on, as in an open prison, you could take your own. It was just a very small example of how Archer, and many other prisoners, soon accepted whatever regime they accepted and just kept their heads down.
The book is available in Kindle and paperback formats. The Kindle edition costs 4.93 pounds, allowing you to immediately download the book from Amazon. The paperback edition retails at 7.99 pounds, but is currently available for 5.19 pounds including delivery from Amazon, or second hand copies can be obtained for under three pounds including postage. The ISBN of the book is 9780330418850.
Overall, a fascinating read, lots of ancedotes from prison and Archer writes non-fiction as well as he writes fiction. With no signs of bitterness, although he could have easily have become bitter, it's a refreshing look at the people inside prison, and a look at the prison system itself. Recommended.
Summary: Recommended read (as are the other two books in the series)
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