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Prisoner Autobiography

(Slightly revised LLM Dissertation, University of Birmingham, 2014)

Andrew O’Day

This Dissertation concerns autobiographies written by prisoners in the United Kingdom. As is so of many writers of autobiography, these prisoners are marginalised so these autobiographies give them a voice to express their experiences of the prison and their full identities and what they perceived as injustices encountered on a daily basis where they, like other prisoners, were victims. The writers thematise the ways in which, as prisoners, they were not given a voice and how their autobiographies counter official discourses that circulate about the hidden world of the prison. The Dissertation begins by looking at autobiographies written by men before, or in one case just after, the 1990s Strangeways Riots and then at more recent examples. Looking at the sociology of imprisonment and drawing this division is key; we see how prior to the riots various prisoners used the law to challenge the injustices explored but how the riots saw the wider prison population taking matters into their own hands and how their actions may or may not have affected major changes in the official law and prisoners’ experiences. We also see how prisoners with negative experiences which violate the ECHR can seek redress. Still maintaining an emphasis on the sociology of imprisonment, the Dissertation then probes autobiographies by ethnic minority, and women prisoners and argues that these have distinctive features as these people encounter this part of the criminal justice system. Their writings show how prison autobiography is useful empirical material and again explore the social conditions that the law engenders and which can lead to changes in prison law or official calls for change to the way the law is exercised or better prison management. However, the essay asks whether further autobiographical writing by prisoners (not only by ethnic minorities and by women but also by elderly prisoners) be encouraged to give a contemporary picture of prison life and alert us to changes that need to be introduced.  

I: Literature review and methodology 

Before delving into an examination of prisoner autobiography, it is first important to summarise what has already been written about the topic and prisoner autobiography’s ties with autobiography more widely. It will also be necessary to outline the methodological approach to this study and to answer the question of why we should be concerned with prisoner autobiography and how it differs from other genres. Steve Morgan writes about how the autobiographical genre at first celebrated the lives of individuals who tended to be white, male and privileged[1] but that then there was a move towards ‘alternative accounts’ to the dominant voices, those of women, blacks, and those who intersect between categories like black women. Morgan places prisoners within a marginalised group who inhabit a hidden world[2] and generally lack a voice.[3] By writing autobiography, these prisoners come to engage in, what Morgan calls, a ’counter discourse’.[4]    

This idea links prison autobiography with the autobiographies of other marginalised groups, such as ethnic minorities and gay men, and some prison autobiographies are indeed written by members of these minorities showing how they cross categories. The problem of finding a voice was key to American black writer Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings;[5] being raped by a white man leaves Angelou mute but she learns to voice her predicament. Gay men and lesbians grapple with language in a different way. Since gay men and lesbians are not visible minorities they begin life ‘in the closet’, with their true identities hidden and in later life many ‘come out’ and express themselves openly by saying ‘I am gay’. Paul Robinson has written about how gay autobiography, for instance, traces the coming-out process where writers unmask themselves both to those around them and to the reader through the act of writing.[6] Later, Georgia Johnston wrote that contained within gay autobiography is the psychological double being, where there is the closeted gay man who is one thing on the surface and another in reality and the ‘writer’ who has come-out as whole.[7] As the ‘auto’ in autobiography indicates, the genre concerns expressing the true self. This idea of finding a voice to express what lies hidden and to express one’s full identity is also pertinent to prison autobiography, as we shall see. 

Scholars have written on the way in which prisoners’ use of language is censored or is not curtailed. Steve Foster comments on the case R. (on the application of Nilsen) v Secretary of the State for the Home Department[8] and on whether a prison governor breached the Prison Act 1952 and acted ‘ultra vires’ by confiscating a prisoner’s autobiography. Foster considers whether the ECHR 1950 Article 10 permits such expression by prisoners.[9] Foster picks this up in a second article questioning whether the prison Governor has the power to prevent the publication of prisoners’ works.[10] Similarly, Julian Broadhead examines the Police Service Standing Order 5B which prevents the publication of works which attack the prison system.[11] However, as Broadhead discusses elsewhere, the rules are treated with flexibility and many prisoners are not prevented from publishing their autobiographies.[12] But more recently in Part 7 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which came into force on 6 April 2010, the notion that it was illegal for prisoners to profit financially from such writings came into law.[13]  

Scholars have further written about the value of such criminal ‘insider’ accounts and their contribution to criminology.[14] Hayley Killengrey writes about types of research methods used in studying prisoners experiences and points to their limitations. For example, she points out that one method is researcher participant observation but that this is fraught with difficulty since there is limited access into the research locale of the prison.[15] She also notes that prisoners, aware that they are being observed, may alter their behaviour to send out a certain picture.[16] Another method, raised by Killengrey, is that of conducting interviews,[17] however researcher biases may enter the questions and prisoners may shape their responses knowing that they are being studied.[18] Studying prisoner autobiographical first-person accounts at least side-steps the problem the researcher faces in gaining access to the research locale. Melissa Dearey et al make much the same points, looking at prisoner life writing in the context of teaching and learning.[19] They also argue that many prisoners would not be willing to participate in academic research or would answer the interview questions with self-interest.[20] Mike Nellis further argues that studying these autobiographies is a ‘life history approach’ used in social science degrees and he argues that these texts can be used in training probation officers.[21]  

The methodology in this Dissertation is therefore to treat the prison autobiographies as primary sources and to quote extensively from them for what they reveal about prisoners’ experiences and the law. By quoting from these works I am treating them much as Nellis argues interviews and questionnaires are treated in the social sciences. It is important to realise that these are not just books taken off the shelf and read for entertainment but that they can be used for empirical qualitative research. So I have not just read books and am not just presenting a string of quotations from them. Also, as shall become apparent, the lack of certain autobiography means that we are still reliant on already completed qualitative surveys. Additionally, it needs to be mentioned that disciplines such as English are just as important to this study as the social sciences like sociology since literary genres are alluded to by prisoners, since structuralist analysis reveals similarities between these autobiographies, and since techniques like irony are employed.  

However, while it is important to see that these autobiographies can be studied in disciplines like English, the question of why these autobiographies matter to legal scholars is an important one. The approach here begins by looking at the sociology of imprisonment, probing the experiences of those affected by the law, but does not stop there and investigates how some of the social factors of imprisonment led to the development of prison law. In order to gain a full picture of prison life, then, one must go beyond black-letter law, as a set of rules and principles, and this is something that autobiography as a genre, which commonly involves marginalised figures voicing a true identity, enables us to do. Solely studying black-letter law is very limited since it does not highlight the way the law affects people through imprisonment and does not allow for the way social conditions of imprisonment affect legal change. These books matter because of the way some male prisoners turned to legally fight what they perceived to be the prison injustices described in the initial part of this Dissertation; because these prisoners, and others, then acted contrary to official law by rioting in order to protest their conditions; and because these texts detail the effect that this had on the development of prison law and, in turn, on prisoners’ experiences. So looking at autobiography, rather than relying on qualitative surveys, is also important to gain a historical perspective of the development of prison law. Moreover, prisoners have opportunities to seek redress for violations of the ECHR showing how law which was not particularly designed to safeguard the interests of prisoners is important. Furthermore, looking at the sociology of imprisonment matters because it reveals that prisoners are not a homogeneous mass. Rather there are different groups affected by the law in different ways with specific needs which must also be addressed by the law and by better prison management. Some would use the term ‘socio-legal’ to express the approach I am taking.  

In looking at what these autobiographies tell us about prisoners’ experiences and the law, these works differ from other genres. David Wilson reveals that prisoner autobiographies have their origins in the picaresque novels of the eighteenth century, in the confessions contained within the Newgate Calendar and in execution broadsheet pamphlets which were distributed on ‘hanging days’.[22] The picaresque novel was, like autobiographies, traditionally written in the first person, and was told in a Realist manner, but was ‘invented’ and did not concern incarceration; the main character was of a low social class and his or her behavior was roguish but not criminal.[23] The Newgate Calendar, of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, meanwhile, began as a monthly bulletin of executions but other publishers appropriated it and put out biographical books about criminals along with social commentary. These, however, were written in the third person.[24] Broadsheet pamphlets would be released on the very day of hangings and surprisingly, given the public enthusiasm at executions, were not sensationalist. Giving details of the prisoner’s life and family they too were third-person accounts and were not about prisons. Melissa Dearey et al[25] also point to another form of text. Execution sermons were the predominant form of criminal narratives in New England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which drew in large crowds. However, unlike autobiographies, these Christian sermons were preached in the third person and, rather than detailing the system of imprisonment, were concerned with the spiritual redemption of the ‘condemned’ ‘sinner’ also the fault of the community.[26]  

Wilson has also noted that prisoner autobiographies are a staple of the ‘true crime’ genre[27] while Dearey et al have argued more persuasively that ‘true crime’ runs alongside prisoner autobiography and that prisoner life writing can be seen as a ’sub-genre of true crime’.[28] There are important distinctions to be made between the two. Dearey et al cite Jean Murley[29] and write that true crime is a highly accessible biographical account, whether in novel form, magazines, documentaries etc., which marked a departure from a concern with the spiritual condition of the accused, as evidenced by the execution sermons, to a fascination with ‘gothic horror and gore (depicting the offender as ‘other’, a ‘monster’, and rendering visible the gory details of the crimes)’ and the life which led up to them.[30] This ran alongside a modern twentieth century interest in forensics and psychology.[31] These, however, are not the first person accounts of autobiography which detail incarceration, and critic Alex Ross is sceptical about the ‘true crime’ genre’s contribution to an understanding of crime and punishment.[32]   

The approach of this Dissertation, of teasing out what prisoner autobiography tells us about prisoners’ experiences and the law through a close reading is itself not exhausted. Studies such as those by Morgan do not provide detailed readings of the autobiographies. Julian Broadhead’s book Unlocking the Prison Muse,[33] meanwhile, gives a very brief summary of all types of prisoner writing and does not go into the depth that this Dissertation does. 

There remains one important point to be made before turning to the autobiographies. Just as there are pitfalls involved in research methods such as participant observation and interviews, notably the reliability of the subjects, there are dangers associated with studying autobiographical writing. This goes for all autobiographical writing and not just prisoner autobiographies. As Killengrey notes, events can be exaggerated but she explains that this still reveals much about the criminal state of mind.[34] The reliability of accounts is raised in relation to specific autobiographies. One writer, only in prison for a year, tells us that he has ‘avoided relating prison “legends”’ and has also ‘checked’ his ‘recollection of details…with others who are well acquainted with them, in order to neutralize the chance that’ his ‘memory has made some things seem worse than they actually were’.[35] One editor notes that ‘As to such matters as authenticity…I cannot give firm guarantees’.[36] He continues ‘We all live…“selected fictions”. These fictions can never be fully checked out’.[37] The editor says, ‘Of course [the writer] has…reconstructed his past, selected and repressed, emphasized and played down. Of course his story is subjective’.[38] But this does not mean that there are not valuable insights into prison life contained within. The editor states that he has checked authenticity as far as possible since there is a ‘hierarchy of credibility’ where deviants are ‘thought to have forfeited their right to be believed’.[39] Another autobiography is lent credibility by a foreword by a judge, His Honour James Pickles.[40]  

II: Prisoner autobiographies 1970s - 1992 

This section looks at autobiographies by males from the 1970s up until 1992, just after the Strangeways Riots and highlights, in a sociological manner, the experiences of those affected by the law. These books are by John William Fletcher,[41] John McVicar,[42] Rod Caird,[43] Walter Probyn,[44]  Mark Leech,[45] and Trevor Hercules.[46] This section does not examine of texts written before the 1960s like Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis,[47] Wilfred Macartney’s Walls Have Mouths,[48] Jim Phelan’s Jail Journey,[49] Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy,[50] or prison diaries.  

It is appropriate to begin with a discussion of one of the main characters in prison autobiographies: the external appearance and layout of the prison itself because it is a physical place of incarceration. We earlier saw connections between prisoners, gay men and blacks as groups who are marginalised, however there is also a key difference when it comes to considering prisoners. Unlike gay men and ethnic minorities, prisoners are not born into their category and unlike these other groups the category of ‘prisoner’ is directly linked with a physical environment into which these people are placed. These people are moved around the different prisons, often, following the 1960s Mountbatten Report, according to how they are categorized in terms of the threat they pose.[51] Caird writes of the prison as having ‘great wooden gates, and grey forbidding walls’ like a ‘fortress’,[52] while Leech comments on the ‘huge gates’ closing behind him.[53] Also, Trevor Hercules describes the physical structure of the prison in relation to the genre of gothic-horror. One of the conventions of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century gothic was its uncanny setting whether that be an old decaying castle, a monastery, a haunted house or a graveyard and another convention was the use of the pathetic fallacy where turbulent nature such as thunder expressed an emotional condition. After noting that ‘the gates of hell swung open’,[54] Hercules makes an intertextual reference to a famous gothic novel, stating that ‘Entering the gates of Wormwood Scrubs prison on a cold December night was just like entering Dracula’s castle’ with a ‘maze of arches’,[55] preparing for a discussion of the prison as a sinuous and emotionally ‘cold’ place.[56] The connection with the gothic is also important since as Caird highlights many prisons in the United Kingdom ‘were constructed around the middle of the nineteenth century’.[57] The links with the gothic here are different from those in the true crime genre, noted earlier, where the crimes were depicted with gothic gore.  

Not only do some writers describe the external appearance of the prison, but they all go to great pains to describe the inside layout; descriptions of the various wings and of the cells (including those in the segregated punishment blocks) are given in minute detail.[58] Indeed, Caird likens the cell to another gothic motif, the tomb, when he says that the doors being shut made one feel as though one was in ‘an air-tight container’.[59]  

This provides a first-hand account of Philip Hancock and Yvonne Jewkes’ discussion of the nineteenth century prison having been built with splendor to emphasise the state’s power, resembling castles or monasteries with the design typifying penance and punishment.[60] The gothic also created a feeling of the sublime in keeping with Edmund Burke’s writings[61] and, as has been seen, prisoners are overwhelmed by the sight of the prison; they undergo a sublime experience feeling the power of the State, just as their hearing is played with when the cell doors bang shut.[62] Hancock and Jewkes further note that the insides, which had resembled that of factories, creating a link between workers receiving a wage and prisoners ‘doing time’,[63] now served the function of the ‘psychological’ as well as physical ‘compression of inmates’.[64] This was also earlier discussed by philosopher Jeremy Bentham who raised the notion of the Panopticon.  All this clearly differs from those prisons designed to resemble a school or university campus in the 1960s[65] and the few ‘new generation prisons’ of the late twentieth century, which were designed ‘devoid of the dehumanising features of their Victorian predecessors’ in order to cater to prisoners.[66] 

What comes across in these autobiographies is that prisoners in the criminal justice system are marginalised and find a voice to express the invisible world within, and so in this way their autobiographies mirror those of blacks and gay men. Many of the writers under consideration reveal their origins as mute figures and so the autobiographies trace their journeys to find speech. Fletcher reveals how the official in charge of Reception told him ‘From now on you keep this buttoned’…pointing at [his] mouth…‘you don’t speak to anyone under any circumstances whatever…This is an absolutely silent system’.[67] At the start of his autobiography, Caird details the journey to Wormwood Scrubs where prisoners were escorted by sympathetic and paternal officers, the senior of whom told them ‘You lads’ll be all right. All you have to do is keep your mouths shut and do what you’re told’.[68]  

The theme of the censoring of written language recurs in a number of autobiographies. For example, Caird writes about how every prisoner was entitled to send one letter per week paid for by the prison authorities and a second letter paid for out of earnings (a ‘canteen letter’), however that there are ‘restrictions regarding to whom you can write, and what you can say’.[69] These restrictions not only mean that prisoners cannot write to non-blood relative prisoners in other penal institutions but also mean that it is illegal to write in a foreign language, ‘to complain about treatment in prison, to insult the prison staff, to use abusive language (about anything) and so on.[70] We are told that at Coldingley there is an attempt ‘to control prisoners beyond the demands of physical containment. Influences are exerted not only on prisoners’ actions, but also on their thoughts’.[71] Again, we are informed that as well as reading materials, letters could be censored.[72]  

Obviously, by writing autobiographies, however, these people are ultimately complaining about treatment in prison, insulting the prison staff and often using abusive language; their thoughts are very much their own. Although, as noted earlier, many prisoners were not obstructed in their attempts to publish their autobiographies,[73] one writer McVicar indeed had to tell wardens that he was preparing an upcoming defense for firearms charges since at HMP Brixton he was monitored 24 hours a day (one of those spent in the exercise yard) and prison rules explicitly forbade prisoners from writing memoirs for publication.[74] Luckily for him, the prison wardens never became suspicious and he was left to write his manuscript, then taken out of the prison for publication under the guise of ‘defense documents’ by one of his lawyers.[75] Even then, though, before the 2009 decision that only profiting financially from publishing autobiographies be illegal, he faced no opposition when the autobiography was published.[76] 

These writers are able to express, then, that prison is a different world with its own rules, its own language, and a daily routine which includes meal times and work times. It is by this routine, for instance, that one measures time.[77] Caird refers to ‘the language and way of life of prisons’[78] and says: ‘I was now directly under the control of the Prison Department and it acted as a buffer between me and reality…I was now in a different world, with its own rules and norms, and even language’.[79] He notes that they ‘began to pick up the prison language and discover a little of what conditions were like and…the routine’ from those who had been imprisoned before.[80] 

There is a prevailing sense in these autobiographies that as the prison system is closed off from the public view that prisoners are victims of injustices which are ignored. According to these writers, prisoners are largely seen as ‘the other’ and prisons act to dehumanise them while some inmates tell their life story giving them a human face. This dehumanization, though, occurs physically and psychologically at the same time. In this way too, the autobiographies deal with the lack of identity and the expression of a true identity that we have seen is so key to autobiography. Caird, Probyn, Leech, and Hercules reveal how they and prisoners generally were stripped of their identity. Caird writes: ‘We were taken…down a long corridor…It is a tunnel which strips off every connection a man has with the outside world and provides him with a number and a set of prison clothes, quite anonymous and undifferentiated’.[81] Caird goes on to say that ‘innumerable forms retain the man’s identity for his release date, and a store holds all his clothes and belongings in limbo until he has paid his debt as a convict and is thought fit to become a whole person again’.[82] Caird also reveals that there is a bath-house and that he, like others, ‘had surrendered the belongings of normal life, taken off the clothes of normal life, and washed off the smell and dirt of normal life’.[83] Therefore, there is a type of baptism taking place, using water, but here rather than being a positive religious one it is one into the ways of prison life.  

Probyn details the move from being made to disrobe, to, as in Caird’s autobiography, bathing,[84] to being examined by a doctor in a ‘brutal and dehumanising process’ where ‘No part of one‘s anatomy was allowed to escape scrutiny’.[85] Here the younger prisoners generally were degraded through the use of their bodies since the case of disrobing was ‘particularly trying for very young boys who would have to suffer the leering stares of sex-starved men who had developed homosexual tendencies’.[86] But clothing, footwear and the human figure are also used slightly differently by Probyn from the other writers considered here. He states ‘A heap of clothing was thrown at one…no selection of size was made, and one was often issued with odd shoes’ which, very importantly, were ‘shapeless things that were made by the prisoners and had little resemblance to the shape of human feet’.[87] Therefore, the notion of dehumanising comes across here too, as it does again when Probyn describes being marched to a cell where ‘The sense of isolation from humanity felt total and complete’.[88] 

Leech, meanwhile, states that ‘Before the new arrival has been in the door twenty-four hours, he has been stripped of his name and had it replaced by a number, and his clothes are removed and replaced by cast-off clothing’ and ‘he is given a cursory medical examination by prison medical officers’.[89] Leech importantly reveals that the cast-off clothing ‘frequently…doesn’t fit’[90] but, unlike Probyn, does not emphasise that the clothes do not resemble the human anatomy in order to highlight the dehumanising nature of prison. 

Hercules also visits the dehumanising theme, writing: ‘the screws at the desk had begun to call us up one by one to be stripped of our own clothes and issued with prison clothing, and a prison number’.[91] He continues ‘We were stripped of all personal possessions…you were left with nothing that personalised you…You were no more a name but a number’.[92] Hercules illuminates how the screws ‘were conditioning you to accept that you were nobody’.[93] 

Caird, Leech and Hercules also emphasised the dehumanising nature of prison in another way, which is to reveal the unsanitary conditions suitable only for animals. Caird describes in detail the process of ‘slopping-out’ and of cleaning oneself more generally.[94] Leech adopts a bitter ironic tone characteristic of his autobiography. Leech writes that at dawn the prisoner ‘will be unlocked and told to slop out the plastic pot which may have held his and his cell mate’s bodily waste for anything up to sixteen hours’.[95] Leech continues: ‘He will carry his pot to the recess which is often flooded because of overuse and, treading amid faeces and urine, he will add to the overflow by pouring its contents down the common sluice’.[96] He then tells us using irony: ‘When this is completed, a charming start to the day, everyone goes for breakfast’.[97] Hercules, meanwhile, tells of the difficulties of going to the toilet in the Segregation Unit because of being visible and being told to hurry up as well as ‘slopping-out’ which consisted of emptying the ‘piss-pot’ ‘like you were some kind of animal’.[98] And if the sight and sounds of the prison inspired terror then another sense is played with here: that of the awful smell of human waste. 

These writers also convey the way that both they and prisoners generally are victims of these dehumanising conditions through emphasising that they belong to a lineage of prisoners. Caird, for example, writes that there were traces of previous prisoners at the Scrubs such as the ‘many recent scratches and flacked-off patches’ on the wall.[99] Probyn, meanwhile, states of the dehumanising bathing process: ‘Having stripped naked, one would then have to step into a bath of water, the sides of which were coated with the scum of previous occupants’.[100] Again, when Probyn is marched up to his cell, ‘The heavy wooden door swung open to reveal a dark filthy hole that stank of the previous occupant and oozed with generations of despair and misery’.[101] 

Prisoners are also ‘othered’ and further treated as animals by officers, tortured psychologically and physically. Hercules illuminates how the screws poked fun at prisoners and their anatomy.[102] But more commonly, animal imagery is employed. For example, Fletcher writes of the two and a half years he spent in Solitary Confinement at Dartmoor when he ‘even went on exercise inside a cage, like a trapped animal’.[103] Fletcher says that ‘One prison Governor…treated us like beasts’ so the next day they ‘all made animal noises at him from behind’ their ‘bars, from donkeys to sheep, just like a human zoo’.[104] Fletcher writes that one ‘gets so dehumanised by the lack of any common decency’.[105]  

Similarly, McVicar states ‘In the 60s, the only cattle left in Durham Town were the prisoners and they were farmed by the screws’.[106] He continues ‘Tradition was not entirely lost though, since those Durham screws had a little of the reivers’ steely blood coursing through their veins. They like their meat red and raw and their favourite cut was a slice of London convict’.[107] McVicar explains that the ‘treatment provided for the rebellious…was the time-honoured one of a good kicking’[108], with the term ‘time-honoured’ suggesting how prisoners on the whole are victims of these beatings.  

Hercules also says that he ‘was now becoming an animal in a caged environment where’ he ‘couldn’t get out, and the baiting and taunting of the keepers made’ him ’more and more angry’.[109] He later comments ’We were angry at a system which…merely contained you in conditions that dehumanised you and turned you into an animal’.[110] These were ‘conditions under which you had to be macho…to survive with your dignity intact’.[111] He notes that he ‘thought of what it would be like to be free of the confinement of an enclosed space of being locked up in a small cell like an animal ’.[112]  

These prisoners are concerned with portraying their captors as monsters or savage animals and themselves very much as victims. If the prisoners were dehumanised by the prison system, they equally dehumanise the prison officers. Most prisoners are identified by name and form part of a shared culture, which only excludes prisoners such as the ‘nonce’, the sex offender, who is the target of prison violence by younger inmates.[113] McVicar refers to sex offenders - as ‘fucking animal[s]’,[114] who, as Caird notes, are confined away from other prisoners under Rule 43.[115] But these officers, who conduct beatings, are impersonal, not identified by name. Also, while the prisoners can be like ‘zombie[s]’[116] so too are the officers: the walking, emotionless dead, as Hercules puts it,[117] or themselves ‘snarling animals’ issuing threats, as Probyn expresses.[118] 

The writers, then, are concerned with voicing this dehumanising system, as it affects themselves and other prisoners as victims. This is key since we will see in the next section how these prison experiences led to challenges to the law (both officially and unofficially) by these writers. The fact that the experiences are not unique to the writers of these autobiographies but are shared by the wider prison population is also important to the next section where we see how there was a mass-scale rebellion against the prison system by inmates.  

It is important then to realise that the stories about what occurs in prisons are rooted in fact and to be aware of how writers stress making visible the dehumanising victimising nature of prisons which is usually kept hidden by the justice system and by the media.  Caird refers to the ‘warning’ he was given on the way to the prison ‘against some of the elaborate stories which constantly circulate round the prisons’, such as ‘accounts of beating-ups and victimization, gruesome attacks on prisoners by officers’, but he points out that ‘most…have a foundation in fact…beneath the…legend’.[119] 

Fletcher thematises making visible the brutality of officers to prisoners generally,[120] of which we have seen specific writers as victims. He appeals to the reader of the autobiography directly: ‘So please, dear reader, remember when you read in the papers of violence in a prison, that there is usually a prisoner’s side to this but you are never given this side of the story’.[121] He sums up: ‘the newspapers condemn the prisoner every time’.[122] He then tells us that ‘Whenever there is an enquiry or an important visitor comes to a prison, things are always prepared for the visit and the visitor only sees what the prison authorities wish him or her to see’ so that the public will not be ‘up in arms over atrocities committed in English prisons’.[123] 

Leech also writes about the reality of what transpires in prisons compared to the common perception, and the way the reality is also ignored. In addition to stating  that ‘Walking in a line with other unfortunates’ the prisoner ‘is…put into a narrow concrete box - which, contrary to general opinion, frequently doesn’t even contain a pot to piss in’,[124] Leech tells us about prison brutality. This was experienced by himself and other prisoners. He states ‘I am well aware that many people believe that such brutality does not exist in our prisons, or that a “clip around the ear never hurt anyone”.[125] ‘The first view’ he writes ‘takes innocence to the point of idiocy, while the second stretches innocence to the very edge of dishonesty’.[126] Leech notes that ‘the postmortem on’ one man ‘revealed more than eighty bruises, a fracture of his lower spine, and two of his teeth lodged in his windpipe’.[127] Leech concludes in a bitter ironic tone that ‘The inquest, which lasted for nine days, failed to discover how he had sustained these injuries while locked in a strip cell in the hospital wing of the prison’.[128]    

III: Fighting back 

Prison is evidently a place then which dehumanises inmates and where criminals were sent for punishment rather than just as punishment, an idea which, Caird notes, was championed in the nineteenth century by Sir Edmund du Cane but was not supported by the Gladstone Committee.[129] This is also a notion raised by Probyn. According to Probyn, prisoners are branded with the ‘label’ criminal for life, by both the criminal justice system and indeed also by the media, and the aim is to punish rather than rehabilitate them. Rather than being seen as having a human face, as comes across in the autobiography, Probyn tells us that he was dubbed with the name ‘Angel Face’ to emphasise how his youthful angelic appearance was a front for wickedness and that this ‘label’[130] or ‘role’[131] was one that stuck.[132] This notion of ‘labeling theory’ is highlighted in the Commentary to the autobiography.[133] The prisoners are not the kind of ‘ideal victim’ described by Sandra Walklate who is blameless and worthy of help, like the murdered or abducted little girl,[134] and their plight is indeed created by the criminal justice system. It is up to them to fight back. 

Probyn and Leech’s autobiographies are important since they argue that this system could be challenged from within, using law (either successfully or unsuccessfully), and therefore their books are useful to legal scholars. For example, Probyn abandons his attempts at escape, conducted with McVicar, and, having taught himself to read and attended law and sociology classes on the wing,[135] seeks freedom from the dehumanising system we have seen and petitions the Home Office (unsuccessfully) for parole. He sees his penalty as an ‘abuse of the law’[136] and against a statutory duty to the public ‘to facilitate the rehabilitation…of offenders’.[137] He explicitly states that he has ‘become the victim’, and this ‘torture…is only a new variation on those’ he has ‘already suffered these many years’.[138] Only after considerable time, was his parole granted in 1974 when unlike on the previous occasions he had petitioned for parole he had no promise of employment and building a new positive life on the outside.[139]  

Leech also ’threw’ himself ‘into legal studies’[140] and his concern is with the harsh disciplinary procedures that existed in prisons along with the other dehumanising features we have seen. Leech reveals, for instance, that in 1978 the case of St Germain held that adjudications by the prisons’ Board of Visitors (BOV’s) were reviewable,[141] as was key in the 1984 case of R v Secretary of State, ex p Tarrant et al[142], which held that the BOV had failed to apply the law fairly. The BOV’s were an independent body created by the Prison Act 1898.[143] Following Tarrant, the Prison Rules (Amendment) Act 1989 saw the introduction of a new Rule 47, detailing specific offences which the Governor could refer to the BOV.[144] Leech also went on to challenge the 1984 case of King v. Deputy Governor of Camphill Prison[145] which held that ‘a prison governor’s disciplinary adjudication was not susceptible to…judicial review’[146] with the 1988 case Leech v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison.[147]  

While these writers emphasise the lack of official concern with rehabilitation and the harsh conditions prisoners had to endure, there were, however, attempts at reform through the constructions of open prisons.[148] But Leech also presents a different model of the prison still which seems to offer greater ‘justice’: this is the therapeutic prison of HM Grendon Underwood, the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom, which emphasises rehabilitation. Firstly, it is worth mentioning that while we have seen that the normal prison is a forbidding place in external and internal appearance, Leech describes his first impressions of Grendon as different from ‘the mists of sodden Dartmoor’ which he had left behind.[149] Grendon conversely has ‘pleasant gardens blooming with flowers’[150] and ‘highly polished’ floors and a building which ‘actually smelt clean and fresh’.[151] Leech also refers to the different atmosphere where the ‘screws’ asked questions of him rather than barking orders[152] and addressed him by his first name, leaving him ‘trying to suss out the angle’.[153] Grendon, involves what its members refer to as ‘Grendonspeak’.[154] Members recount their life story, which in Leech’s case include revealing his long-kept secret of being the victim of child abuse and coming-out as gay.[155]  And members face up to their criminal ways with other members of the group supporting each other critically. As Leech points out, ‘Grendon looked…to the criminal’[156] treating them in a humanised way which encourages self-advancement. Leech describes his fellows since there is very much a shared culture. Leech comes to realise that he must carry the experience of Grendon within him. Leech suggests some ways that the Home Office may learn from Grendon: firstly, by making sure everyone knows what Grendon does, perhaps by a video showing Grendon in action; and also by developing and distributing literature packs giving information on how to apply, and who would be suitable.[157] This autobiography is written by the Leech who has already undergone therapy at HM Grendon, and is comfortable with speech, since as Dorothy Sheridan notes autobiography involves different layers of time, where the person’s life is being narrated much later on after the events which conclude the autobiography.[158] The approach adopted here of looking at what autobiography has to say about Grendon is similar to David Wilson and Steven McCabe’s article[159] which focuses not only on Leech’s autobiography but also on those by Frank Cook[160] and Alex Alexandrovich.[161]   

The only other viable alternative to the traditional prison was a psychiatric hospital, however these were technically for the insane and according to reports could be dehumanizing. Probyn, for instance, builds up the suspense of encountering a psychiatric patient, referring to the sound of a creature coming slowly towards him: ‘I heard a ghastly groan and the slither of a body moving along the corridor towards the entrance of my cell. I could hear grunts and gasping breath as whatever it was drew nearer’.[162] Probyn then describes a creature appearing visually like ‘something from a horror film’, with ‘The face…bloated and covered on one side with a mass of scar tissue’ and ‘The eyelid on the scarred side of the face’ drooping ‘away from the eye showing the blood-red socket’[163] before his ‘horror turned to…sympathy’ and he came to know ‘This wretched creature’ by name.[164] The staff did not treat this figure as a person, punching him as hard as they could and, ‘Even though it might not hurt him’ as he was paralysed on one side, ‘the enthusiasm with which it was administered was positively vile’.[165]      

Grendon is an exception and the 1990 Strangeways Prison Riot, which saw prisoners taking matters into their own hands and acting contrary to the law, can be read in the context of what these autobiographical writers have to say about more common prison conditions where prisoners are victims. The Strangeways Riot, mentioned by Leech,[166] occurred at Strangeways Prison in Manchester and is notable for its scale. It lasted for 25 days, beginning on April 1 1990, and spread from the prison chapel through most of the prison involving a rooftop protest.[167] The violence led to the death of one prisoner and one officer with nearly 200 injured.[168] The cost of the damage was £55 million.[169] This led to similar uprisings in prisons across the United Kingdom and an official inquiry into prison conditions was launched by the then-Conservative government and headed by Lord Woolf,[170] however the Home Office took steps to create an offence of ‘prison mutiny’ carrying a maximum sentence of ten years’ extra imprisonment.[171]    


IV: Prisoner autobiographies post-1992 

This section examines what prisoner autobiographies have to say about the prison experience post-Strangeways.  Did Strangeways affect a notable change in the law in favour of prisoners? Are their experiences much improved? And can those with negative experiences which violate the ECHR continue to seek redress? The section excludes Hugh Collins’ Scottish autobiography[172] since, although published later, Collins only refers to events as late as 1991, where his book stops. Most of Johnny Steele’s book also concerns his imprisonment in the pre-1990s in a Scottish prison.[173] I also exclude Jeffrey Archer’s work since his are diaries,[174] and Erwin James’ series of letters to The Guardian.[175] Those autobiographies that will be focused on are John Hoskison’s,[176] the later sections of Razor Smith’s,[177] and Jonathan Aitken’s.[178]  

The Strangeways Riots and Lord Woolf’s report wrought changes to the prison system for the better, but this was an ‘all-too-brief honeymoon period’,[179] shattered by the arrival of Michael Howard as Home Secretary. Howard’s influence is touched upon by Hoskison but is dealt with in more detail by Smith, making his book of use to legal scholars. According to Smith, as a result of Strangeways, new jails had been built like Highdown, Woodhill and Blakenhurst and Smith refers to the Woolf Report in detail which recommended that attention be paid to improving the following: the cramped conditions of three to a cell built for one; the filthy nature of prisons where inmates were forced to go to the toilet in plastic buckets and pots; the restrictions on inmates showering and changing their clothes; and the low priority given to work and education in prisons.[180] Woolf was concerned with rehabilitating prisoners. As Smith suggests, this Report briefly improved the system.[181]  

However, as Smith goes on to explain, Howard’s policies included slashing the prison education budget by 89 per cent; and both eliminating home-leave towards the end of prisoners’ sentences[182] and shelving resettlement projects.[183] Smith also reveals that a couple of prison break-outs, at Whitemoor and Parkhurst, which left Howard embarrassed, led to his taking an even harder line on prisoners: he commissioned the Woodcock and Learmont reports prompting him to introduce a system called ‘Volumetric Control’, where a prisoner was only allowed to possess a quantity of personal items which would fit inside two standard size cardboard boxes and could be forced to repack and unpack everything over and over as a means of psychological control.[184] As well as what Smith calls ‘The Gestapo-like Dedicated Search Teams’, one of a number of initiatives to monitor prisoners, Howard introduced the IEPS (Incentive and Earned Privileges Scheme) where behaviour in prison determines inmates’ access to association, the length of their visits, whether they have to wear prison clothes and how much of their own money they are allowed to spend per week at the canteen.[185] Smith also explains how mandatory drug testing led to addicts switching from cannabis to the more harmful heroin. Prisoners may do so because heroin is easier to get into the prison, and makes users unaware of their incarceration, but also because, unlike cannabis, heroin stays in the blood stream for only three days, important where drug testing was frequent.[186] Injecting heroin is also dangerous because sharing needles can lead to the spreading of infections such as HIV and hepatitis.[187] Smith tells us that Howard’s reign had a ‘serious effect…on the prison system and is still having today’.[188]     

What also comes across in prisoner autobiographies, however, is that the type of experiences inmates have largely depends upon the individual governor. These prisoners are circulated among different prisons. Hoskison describes prison as dehumanising and the cells as ‘cramped…oppressive’,[189] ‘filthy’,[190] and anything but the holiday camp described by the newspapers.[191] Prisons could be ‘shitholes’[192] and ‘alien and antagonistic’ ‘like landing on another planet’[193] but could be ‘on another planet’ from one another.[194] Hoskison reveals how the governor at Coldingley stated that his decision-making powers were largely tied by the Home Office.[195] However, Smith discusses arriving back at Highdown in 1995 and finding the prison ‘more settled’ with a ‘good atmosphere’ which he puts down to the Governor ‘a progressive liberal who believed in treating prisoners as adults’.[196] Aitken also writes about how the change in atmosphere during the final months of his sentence was due largely to the arrival of a new Governor at HMP Standford Hill. Aitken says that ‘Like a brisk new headmaster taking the reins of a school that had fallen into bad habits, he made his presence felt by smartening the place up…he was…accessible and always ready to talk to’ and even apologise to, any inmate.[197] Aitken reveals how he promised the prison officers not to be too hard in his book on those doing a job with ‘fairness…under enormous pressures’.[198]  

However, Michael O’Brien’s book[199] is noteworthy since it draws a contrast between the violation of prisoner’s rights which still occurs, where prisoners are not treated humanely, and the way the law can be used to redress this, giving prisoners human rights, making his work also of use to legal scholars. O’Brien’s book differs since he spends less room recounting his own experiences. O’Brien revisits the idea that what transpires in prison is hidden from the outside world[200] and draws attention, very importantly using case studies, to the way prisoners are degraded in violation of Article 3 of the ECHR,[201] the point that prisoners are not given a fair hearing within prisons in violation of Article 6,[202] that prison officers should be charged with murder, or at least manslaughter, when causing the death of an inmate, under ECHR Article 2 which states that everyone has a right to life,[203] and so on. O’Brien points to a variety of cases involving prisoner’s rights, the most important of which was the 1983 one of Raymond v Honey[204] which established that prisoners retain their civil rights in prison unless Parliament has expressly taken them away[205] but sums up that ‘the Prison Service and governors of prisons are a law unto themselves and ignore the law if they don’t like a certain right that a prisoner has’.[206] He refers to a 2010 report where the Chief Inspector of Prisons expressed concerns such as the un-cleanliness of the prison and poor visitor facilities and added that incidents like mistreatment of prisoners need be addressed.[207] O’Brien is therefore like Probyn and Leech in drawing attention to how prisoners should be treated according to the normal law. There are also a range of other cases dealing with the breach of prisoner’s rights in the UK. To note just a few, Edwards v United Kingdom,[208] Keenan v United Kingdom[209] and R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex p. Amin[210] concern the violation of Article 2 where there is a duty to protect life.


V: Autobiographies by certain groups of prisoners 

This section will consider autobiographies by prisoners other than white young males as they encounter this part of the criminal justice system. This section explores the sociology of imprisonment where the experiences of those affected by the law will be probed, and where this leads to new prison laws being introduced and official recommendations for improvements to prison management. Hercules, seen earlier, wrote a pre-Strangeways autobiography and we return to him because he is black. His aim is to be a ‘real voice for the black community’ and ‘to put forward their real grievances about living in a white society’.[211]. He begins his Preface: ‘I wrote this book because I felt certain things needed to be said’.[212] Hercules writes that ‘those black people in a position to be a real voice for the black community have failed to speak out on our behalf’,[213] so his autobiography fills a void.   

To an extent, then, Hercules’ concern is to combat official discourses about blacks in society and to explore what leads them to imprisonment. He writes about how he came to have an awareness of black history by discovering black writers, albeit American,[214] that the white race had hidden in school and in the media (e.g. on television).[215] Hercules looks to black heroes as role models[216] and notes that blacks had great civilisations[217] whereas all that was taught is the fact that blacks were slaves making black youths, such as him, ashamed.[218] He writes about how socio-economic conditions lead blacks to crime and imprisonment,[219] and scholars such as Loic Wacquant, writing about the United States, indeed see the prison as an extension of the poverty-ridden ghetto.[220] Hercules revisits the idea of prison as not being for reform but ‘for confinement; or for spite’,[221] where, returning to Probyn’s idea of labeling, prisoners and specifically black prisoners are marked as criminals as well as the fact that ‘When criminals are lumped together then criminality is accepted as quite normal’.[222] But where our interest lies is in the actual experiences of imprisonment of a black man which Hercules equally voices in an angry colloquial tone. 

Like other writers seen earlier, Hercules’ writes of his experience of being in a cage but here that links with that of black people generally as revealed in the title of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Hercules draws on the black experience and does not only use animalistic imagery to reveal how he was dehumanised by the prison system but also makes an analogy between prisoner and slave. Hercules writes of a prison officer: ‘Not saying a word he stood there, like some slave-master putting the fear of God into his slaves’.[223] Traditionally, American slaves, who were bound to their white masters in captivity, were seen as non-human by white people, not worthy of being treated with dignity, and this is also the case in the prison. So the experiences of blacks in prison fit in with larger social trends.[224] 

Hercules further writes about how racism exists in the prison where guards bait blacks into conforming to negative racial stereotypes but where Hercules resists conforming to these, unlike Fletcher’s discussion of prisoners mimicking animals.[225] Hercules writes that the guards ‘were…having their fun…using racial jibes to taunt’ him.[226] He goes on: ‘Their minds were unable to comprehend anything other than the superficial stereotyping’ and that ‘Had’ he ‘jumped up and began ranting and raving’ he ‘would only have reinforced the stereotype’ so he looked through the hole in the prison door and ‘coldly and calmly’ threatened a guard.[227]  

Hercules does recognise some positive features about the experiences of blacks in prison. He explains the importance of black pride and solidarity. He is a member of a group of brothers.[228] Hercules continually uses the word ‘pride’ to describe how he carried himself in relation to the white ‘screws’[229], and how he related to other inmates. For example, he describes how two new arrivals sat by him in the prison church: ‘I knew they were special people. They had that confident air, that aura that surrounds a proud person…They were black brothers’.[230] Soon afterwards he writes: ‘I didn’t feel too…isolated, mainly because there were a lot of black prisoners…like any minority, we tended to stick together because we had a lot in common’.[231] Such group solidarity is suggested by Hercules who also says ‘The Irish…also mix freely, though they do stick together as well’.[232] This type of grouping is discussed by Coretta Phillips in relation to young offenders but she also highlights the way grouping takes place along lines of locality and also that all prisoners can be seen as one large group.[233]  

Indeed, for all the discussion that Hercules gives of the solidarity of black men in prison, he does come to recognise that in prison black and white men are all in the same situation.[234] Writing about a riot, Hercules states ‘We were now all the same. Colour, creed, religion and size were all forgotten about in our new-found equality, and the comradeship that flowed engulfed us all with a mutual respect’.[235]   

Broadhead writes that Hercules’ autobiography is the only significant first-hand account of a black prisoner’s experience in the United Kingdom.[236] One can hope that further such autobiographies will materialise. What Broadhead does not do, however, is suggest the alternatives to studying ethnic minority prisoners’ experiences. Hercules’ autobiography is now rather old but Kimmett Edgar reveals that black and ethnic minority prisoners are over-represented in the prison system of the United Kingdom[237] and that while institutional racism in the criminal justice system leads to these people being stopped, arrested, and convicted of crimes in the first place[238] prisoners experience victimisation from officers ranging from verbal abuse and threats to actual assaults.[239] They are like Hercules and even the other white prisoners noted earlier who were victims by being imprisoned. But they are not the ideal blameless victims seen by many as worthy of support. With the lack of further ethnic minority prisoner autobiography, one must turn to books such as O’Brien’s which stand as witness to prison racism[240] and both quantitative surveys such as that by Ros Burnett and Graham Farrell[241] and even more recent qualitative studies such as those by Kimmett Edgar and Carol Martin[242] to see the extent and nature of the problem. These surveys reveal that racism is not only felt from other prisoners but also from the prison staff and there can be malicious racism, and more covert racially biased decision making.[243] Prisoners now have opportunities to combat the type of racism Hercules was forced to endure and we see how the social conditions of imprisonment lead to changes in the law; there can be an internal investigation under Prison Service Order 2800, taking the prison to county court under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act, asking the police to investigate, and, as a last resort, complaining to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.[244] It is to qualitative surveys such as Edgar and Martin’s[245] that we must look to, though, to see problems with these remedies such as the fact that prisoners do not trust the system, that they have little say in what happens, that they fear reprisals, and that indirect racism is not adequately addressed, meaning that many prisoners choose not to report instances of racism.[246] While the prison service emphasises confidentiality, there are narrow interpretations of a ‘racial incident’,[247] although the idea of mediation between parties has potential.[248] It would also be useful to see other black prisoners writing about how there is group solidarity.   

Another category of prisoner autobiography which Broadhead looks at is that of women writers.[249] However, Broadhead does not probe the way in which these autobiographies highlight the gendered experiences of imprisonment, in a sociological manner, or the way the conditions lead to a call for change in the way the law is exercised and improvements to prison management. In doing this, there are certain books which shall be excluded from my discussion. Molly Cutpurse’s A Year in Holloway[250] is not an autobiography but does reveal much about imprisonment. It uses authentic documents to detail the conditions of imprisonment just prior to World War II. Joan Henry’s memoir Who Lie in Gaol[251] was accused of sensationalism and Yield to the Night[252] is a novel inspired by a fellow prisoner’s plight who had been sentenced to death in the 1950s but reprieved.[253] Pat Arrowsmith also lightly disguised her prison experiences as fiction[254] so while she has much to reveal about the system her work lies outside of my remit. Jane Buxton and Margaret Turner’s Gate Fever[255] is composed of a series of fictional letters written from inside prison that the writers would have liked to have composed while in Holloway but were not allowed.[256] Like autobiography, though, it seeks to give the outside world as represented by the letter reader and us who are also reading the letters a picture of the enclosed prison world. Anna Reynolds’ autobiography Tightrope[257] not only concerns her imprisonment at age 18 for the murder of her mother but details her whole life up to the age of 22 but was withdrawn since it was claimed that she had libeled the trial judge.[258]  

Women prisoners face different, or more extreme, issues from male prisoners which make them vulnerable. An early example of a female prisoner’s autobiography is by Phoebe Willetts’ in the 1960s.[259] Willetts was given a custodial sentence of only six months for an illegal demonstration and relates her experiences in closed and open prisons,[260] the latter of which she sees as part of reform due to the Christian faith of individuals.[261] However, she believes that with this new prison must come a change in attitude to seeing the prisoner as more than ‘sub-human’.[262] Women’s themes appear in Willetts autobiography which would be revisited in later female prisoner’s books along with additional ideas: the separation of a woman from her husband and children in both closed and open prisons,[263] the point that children suffer more greatly without their mother’s affection than were their father to be sent to prison;[264] and the fact that a mother could only keep her newly born baby in a closed prison with her for nine months but no longer.[265] Willetts comments that prison is separated from the rest of the world, so her book to an extent opens up knowledge of the system.[266]  

Audrey Peckham wrote her 1980s autobiography.[267] Peckham’s case was atypical since she was an educated middle-class schoolteacher who was sentenced for incitement to murder her lover’s wife and spent time on remand and in Styal Prison for eight months. Peckham describes being in the police cells as being like ‘a cage at the zoo’[268] and although most of her gripes are with remand centres,[269] where families are forced to travel long distances for very short visits[270] and where she had a breakdown,[271] she also writes about the prison. Revisiting a theme of Willetts, Peckham states ‘Most of these women had children…and the talk’ according to Peckham was ‘About how the children were reacting to what had happened to their mother, about the ways grandparents were caring for the children, about husbands who had gone off, about children who had been taken into care’.[272] Very significantly, Peckham then remarks ‘I was left in no doubt that there is an extra penalty for women in prison’ than for men.[273] Peckham also remarks about the pregnant women prisoners who were sent to have their babies in a local hospital so that the babies were not branded as having been born in prison but who, as previously mentioned by Willetts, were allowed to keep their babies with them for only a certain amount of time before the baby was put into the care of relatives or the local authority.[274] Furthermore, Peckham gives information about her fellow prisoners: one was a victim of domestic abuse whose husband was in prison for burglary and who, like many other prisoners, lived off of prostitution and was arrested for drug offences.[275] These women had ‘a deep contempt for men’ and had defrauded their past clients when possible.[276] So this one woman who had been in an abusive relationship was trapped for a second time. 

Judith Ward’s autobiography was published in the mid-1990s but details her imprisonment from the 1970s to the early 90s.[277] Ward was an atypical prisoner since she was wrongly convicted of terrorist activity. However, Ward’s innocence is not of concern to us here. What is of concern to us is the fact that she paints a very gendered picture of imprisonment. Like the male writers of autobiography, Ward tells of how women were subject to strip-searches[278] which were diminishing and ‘degrading’.[279] However, while having one’s belongings searched resulted in the feeling that ‘privacy’ had ‘been invaded’ by a ‘stranger’ and was like burglary,[280] the strip-searches are compared to another type of violation which is often likened to being robbed of one’s chastity.[281] Unlike the male writers who write of strip-searches as dehumanising, Ward employs a more gendered simile when she states that being strip-searched ‘is probably the closest thing to rape that many inmates have to endure’.[282] While it is true that men can also be the victims of rape, and indeed certain male prisoners write about being ‘leered’ at in a homosexual manner,[283] the rape victim is more frequently perceived as female and the woman is more likely to think in terms of being raped. Ward’s analogy of rape also returns us to the way in which prisoners see themselves as victims.   

Ward further refers to instances which are unique to women. She not only writes about being on remand and the degradation of having to use a potty[284] but also explains ‘There were times when a period would start in the middle of the night and there was no water to wash yourself, no… Tampax to hand, and no chance of an officer unlocking the door to give you some. The feeling of degradation was great’.[285]  

Family and the inability to have children are also key themes in Ward’s autobiography. She comments that unlike most inmates she did not dream about having a nice home with a loving husband and kids.[286] However, when she considers the sameness of her routine she reflects on the fact that ‘There would be ‘no boyfriends, no marriage, no kids’.[287] She later describes pains in her abdomen, how ‘It is really terrible to be locked in your cell at night with little water to wash yourself when you have a heavy period’ and how, with other treatments not working, she ‘jumped at the chance’ of a hysterectomy when advised by the gynecologist.[288] She says ‘the immediate situation was such that I couldn’t think in terms of never being able to bear children. Not knowing how long I would be in prison, my chances of bearing a child seemed very remote. I was nearly thirty-seven years old’.[289] But later she states ‘I fiercely regret that my chances of having a marriage and children of my own have been robbed from me’.[290] Again, then, the idea of robbery surfaces, the notion that prison forcefully takes something away from the female prisoner which is here the womb. Interestingly she earlier referred to remand as a ‘womb of Victorian ethics and ideals’[291] so the womb of prison ends up replacing the normal womb.  

Indeed, Ward further genders her autobiography by at various points directly contrasting women’s experiences of imprisonment with that of her male counterparts, as do other writers. These observations not only include the use of ‘prison argot’ (prison slang) ‘mainly employed by male inmates’,[292] and the way inmates became ‘barons’ and gained profits from other inmates’ bartering but also the more serious occurrences such as self-harm and suicide, seen in male prisoners to a lesser degree. For example, on remand Ward had tried to self-harm herself by cutting her wrists,[293] but at the very beginning of her autobiography, Ward writes of discovering a woman in prison who had self-harmed and notes ‘Male inmates tend to fight and be aggressive; women can also be aggressive, although the majority tend to withdraw into themselves and often relieve their depression…by inflicting pain on themselves’.[294] It is for this reason that ‘Suicide nets stretched across each landing’.[295] 

Rosie Johnston’s 1989 autobiography details her imprisonment for nine months in the mid-1980s at Holloway, Bullwood Hall and the open prison of East Sutton Park for drug offences.[296] Johnston was from a privileged background but many of her fellow inmates were also serving time for similar offences.[297] Johnston does revisit themes associated with her male counterparts such as being treated ‘no better than an animal’,[298] although she also refers to sympathetic screws who did not make the women feel like a ‘human sub-species’.[299] Women’s themes reappear such as women’s separation from their families and children (acutely felt at Christmas, a time of ‘family togetherness’);[300] a girl who had been sexually abused by her stepfather and had run away from home into a life of prostitution;[301] and prisoners who are driven mad by the experience of being locked up[302] and attempt suicide where they have been put on a psychiatric wing rather than being sent to a proper hospital.[303]   

Much more recently, a gendered autobiography is Ruth Wyner’s who was imprisoned at the turn of the century.[304] Wyner again is an atypical prisoner: a middle-class charity worker who was sentenced to five years for making insufficient efforts to prevent drug dealing in a homeless shelter. But again Wyner’s insights ‘from the inside’ are invaluable. Again, Wyner revisits common notions that can be found in the autobiographies of her male counterparts. Wyner likewise emphasizes prison as dehumanising writing that ‘you ceased to be a person when you got to prison, were not of any import at all’.[305] She comments ‘I did not belong to myself anymore, was merely an object of state custody’.[306] Soon afterwards, Wyner states: ‘I feared that the real “me” had been destroyed. Would I ever get her back again?’.[307] Wyner sees herself as having become like the homeless people she helped, nothing but a ‘shadow’, rather than a real solid person to be treated with dignity.[308]  

But while Wyner revisits this theme, a lot of her concerns are with her roles as wife and mother. Wyner states that she has been separated from her three children. Obviously, with her youngest, her daughter at age 16, the situation is not so bad that the children must be relocated[309] but still Wyner asks ‘What on earth is the point of sticking me in this jail? Look at the financial cost of it, let alone the cost to me and my family’.[310] She continues ‘I worry constantly about my daughter, feel pure hatred for what the police, and the judge, have done: they have stolen her mother’.[311] As a result, she ‘feel[s] desperate…that [her daughter] will have to spend more time on her own while her father is at work, that’ she ‘cannot care for her daughter as’ she ‘should’,[312] where her daughter is on ‘the threshold of womanhood’.[313] Wyner also addresses the fact that many women are incarcerated for drug use which, as mentioned in relation to men, continues in prison with heroin.[314] Wyner raises the theme again of prison as a hidden world with its practices cut off from public perception. Upon her release, she tells the press sarcastically ‘Prison is a…secret society…The public doesn’t really know what goes on. I’ve had a privileged glimpse’[315] 

These autobiographies also deal with the ways in which women experienced, and coped with, imprisonment without men. Earlier prisons saw men and women segregated under the same roof and there were also prisons solely for women.[316] Not only does Ward write about the way in which most female prisoners, apart from those with mental health problems,[317] take pride in their appearance, as a fight against degradation, ‘which challenges the widely held view that most women only do so for the benefit of men’,[318] but she also writes about lesbianism. Prison is seen by many in a heterosexist society as disrupting what they perceive to be the natural order of things. Hancock and Jewkes’ comparison of the external design of the prison to a monastery[319] is key since, like the monk, the male prisoner is supposed to be cut off from sexual relationships. Towards the end of his autobiography, when contemplating leaving prison, Hercules thinks ‘to the many things’ he ‘had missed’ and his ‘whole body tingled with excitement at the prospect of making love to a woman’.[320] Earlier when visited by his companion Dolly he ‘had an erection thinking about the times’ they ‘had lain together’[321] and later managed to get one of the female nurses to briefly masturbate him.[322] Hercules thinks of ‘not tender, warm lovemaking, but hot, passionate, animal rutting’[323] so he sees a move from being a caged beast to having animalistic sex. In his more recent autobiography, Hoskison refers to the availability of free condoms[324] since with the absence of women prison sex between men could be consensual.  

As Ward explains, in prison women would either talk about their fantasies for men or become ‘prison lesbians’, where they would form sexual bonds with women for the duration of their incarceration before returning to heterosexual relationships on release.[325] This lesbian activity, however, was ‘viewed as “abnormal”’ and was a punishable offence.[326] Ward uses language to play with the notion of captivity and release. Prisoners are both captive in that they are literally kept in an enclosed area with no hope of escape and are captive in that they are kept away from their sexual desires with the word ‘release’ not only signifying being let out of prison but also referring to satisfying one’s sexual desires. As Ward puts it, ‘For most of the women simply talking about men provided a necessary release’ and ‘many women who would probably return to heterosexual relationships on release formed relationships with other women whilst in prison’.[327] Ward makes clear, however, that there were also real lesbians and that there was a small percentage of lesbian staff.[328] 

Like Ward, Johnston writes about lesbianism. She explains the difference between ‘nick-bent’ (women who engaged in lesbian relationships only in prison, for ‘companionship’ as well as sex) and ‘ordinary bent’ (women who were bona fide lesbians on the outside).[329] Johnston also refers to the ‘screws’ who would ignore drug use by women with whom they were having sex.[330] However, rather than dwelling on sex, Johnston values female solidarity and ‘association’ time[331] and describes her companionship with Sarah, who was of a similar age and background,[332] at Holloway and then Essex. The two were in jest ‘accused of being lesbians’ but Johnston tells us that theirs was ‘not…a physical relationship’ but that ‘mentally’ they ‘had become very close’.[333] She says ‘in some ways we were like an old, retired couple’.[334] When Johnston is transferred to ESP she is reunited with Sarah.[335] On their release they ‘smiled at each other, silently saying thank you’.[336] Johnston does, however, reveal that some women who were child-molesters, violent towards children and granny-bashers were despised and not part of prison solidarity.[337] 

Female solidarity also comes across in Wyner’s autobiography.  One way in which this is manifested is through the idea of ‘prison gossip’,[338] seen Peckham’s autobiography and indeed mentioned by Johnston where the ‘prison netball court’ is ‘alive with inmates…exchanging gossip’.[339] Indeed, Leech also noted that male prisons ‘thrive on gossip and scandal’.[340] Gossip is something that is important in binding together members of counter-cultures, with shared experiences, as would become apparent in relation to the gay community in the works of the American New Narrative movement[341] and is just as important here. The women are connected to one another by being women and by being specifically women prisoners.  

We have seen, then, how autobiographies are key to revealing women’s experiences of prison. Female writers draw portraits of their fellow inmates describing them in detail. What this does is firstly give a sense of a shared prison culture but also secondly presents a wider perspective on the experience of female prisoners than were the writer to solely concentrate on themselves. Willetts relates the incident of a weeping woman who has been separated from her husband and children who is due for release.[342] Ward tells us about her lesbian friend.[343] Peckham, for instance, was, as we have seen, an atypical prisoner - a middle-class educated woman. She therefore stood apart from the other women who had either suffered domestic violence or were prostitutes and drug-users. She indeed frowns upon the female prisoners who ‘had never…experienced the tenderness and passion of a really caring relationship’ with ‘sex’ being ‘just smut’.[344] To her ‘this seemed a grave pity’.[345] So she was able to stand as witness to their deviant culture. Similarly, Wyner worked for a homeless shelter filled with drug-addicts and she herself has never used heroin: ’I have never before been tempted by heroin; it has always horrified and frightened me…But…it is a chance to escape from the misery…”No, no, but thanks all the same”, I say and hurry out’.[346] And Johnston writes of her aim to observe people she met in prison.[347]  

The women’s autobiographies serve a more important function, then, than just presenting the experiences of one individual and while prisoners develop ways of coping with their predicament we see how there should be a reform to the way the law is exercised, so that the use of incarceration is reduced, as well as there being an official call for better prison management. Wyner, for example, remarks that women are more severely punished than men[348] and that women’s families all over the United Kingdom suffer as a result: ‘every year an estimated 8000 children lose their main carers due to imprisonment, a terrible punishment for these young innocents’.[349] Wyner calls for a better system, where fewer women are given custodial sentences, just as Johnston suggests the need for developing alternative forms of punishment.[350]   

The experiences, such as the problems of the primary carer being separated from her children, of her ability to reproduce being removed, of substance abuse, and of self-harm and suicide have also been raised in qualitative surveys[351] and are areas that the official House of Commons Justice Committee addresses in suggesting limiting the use of custodial sentences and improving the conditions for those women who are imprisoned.[352] Further work is needed to see whether recommendations have been sufficiently addressed such as prisons being located closer to home so that families can visit more frequently and at less financial strain, the use of video-calls and emails to replace expensive telephone calls, allowing more frequent home visits, more emphasis on treatment and rehabilitation for female drug addicts, and the use of therapy to reduce self-harm and suicide. Moreover, it is to work such as Ruth Chigwada-Bailey’s book-length qualitative survey of the experiences of black women in prison that we must turn in order to see the plight of some ethnic-minorities,[353] since there is to date no autobiography written from this perspective. Chigwada-Bailey reveals how black women not only face overt racism by prison staff but that they encounter problems of coping with a different culture and language and separation from their families and children who may be in care or in another poverty ridden country.[354] As the 2013 Justice Committee Report highlights, the plight of black women in prison needs to be addressed.[355] 

Quite understandably, one category of prisoner not well represented by autobiography is that of the elderly prisoner and their experiences call for better conditions to the prison system. What autobiography reveals about elderly prisoners is from the outside and mainly about the ‘nonce’ the sex offender. ‘Elderly’ is a subjective term. Elaine Crawley and Richard Sparks explore the prison experiences of men aged 65 and over who had grown old in prison, had served previous sentences, or were incarcerated for the first time in later life.[356] Crawley and Sparks discover elderly prisoners’ dissatisfaction with the architecture of the prison, designed with young prisoners in mind,[357] and being expected to act as though still young and fit whereas many have chronic illnesses.[358] Some prisons such as HMP Wymott, however, are striving to meet the needs of those on the Elderly and Disabled Unit.[359] In a further article, Crawley and Sparks reveal that elderly male prisoners have a fear of dying in prison, loss of familial contact, and the loss of a respectable identity.[360] Those who are to be released fear assault (as is so of sex offenders) with nothing waiting for them with too little time to start over.[361] The House of Commons Justice Committee has published a 2013-14 report, however, on ways of going about addressing the mental and physical needs of elderly prisoners.[362] Furthermore, there is a need for autobiography by older women. At the moment, their experiences are revealed in qualitative surveys such as Azrini Wahidin’s monograph[363] which reveals how prison officers do not recognise the needs of older women (over 50) who may suffer from a variety of illnesses exacerbated by prison conditions and gynecological problems and breast cancer. There must be screening programmes for such illnesses. Like elderly male prisoners women may also find mobility around the prison a problem but their needs are not identical. 


VI: Conclusions 

This Dissertation, then, has added to existing scholarship by providing a much closer reading than attempted before of a number of prisoner autobiographies, placed in the context of autobiography more widely. Autobiography is significant since prisoners tell a narrative and are able to voice their experiences and their identity which differs from what is contained in the traditional legal textbook. These prisoners express unbelievably harsh prison conditions, countering official discourses, and how these conditions led both to prisoners challenging the law (officially and unofficially) and to changes in the law. This is important since it shows how prison law, which affects very real people, has not been static but is constantly in flux and that the law does not just occur out of nowhere. Rebellion can be a positive thing though there can also be a step backwards. Prisoners should also be protected by the ECHR. Moreover, there are autobiographies by different types of prisoner but a lack of such recent texts means that in order to gain a contemporary picture of prison life for these people and see what improvements must be made we must turn to qualitative studies which have already been carried out.  

There are areas beyond the scope of this Dissertation which are worthy of further study. For example, prisoner autobiographies in the United States offer a different picture, including of life on death-row.[364] Furthermore, this Dissertation has focused on prisoner autobiographies rather than prison officer autobiographies. Wilson has written about this other type of autobiography which he argues is unfortunately scarce.[365] Those autobiographies do reveal the violence dished out by officers to prisoners. Wilson notes, however, that there is a lack of prison officer’s autobiography discussing open prisons, the therapeutic prison Grendon, or women’s prisons.[366] While Wilson attacks prisoner autobiographies as unreliable, there is no reason to conclude this and what prison officer autobiographies cannot tell us is what it is like to experience imprisonment and how this relates to the law, and in this way this Dissertation is vital.   

[1] Steve Morgan, ‘Prison Lives: Critical Issues in Reading Prisoner Autobiography’, (1999) 38 The Howard Journal 328, 330

[2] ibid

[3] ibid 329

[4] ibid

[5] Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Virago 1984)

[6] Paul Robinson, Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette (U of Chicago Press 1999)

[7] Georgia Johnston, ‘Geographies of the Closet: The Lives of Paul Monette’, (2002) 25 Biography 81

[8] [2005] 1 WLR

[9] Steve Foster, ‘Prison regulations and the prisoner’s right to freedom of expression’, (2004) 9 Coventry Law Journal 59

[10] Steve Foster, ‘Freedom of expression, the publication of prisoners’ memoirs and the prison rules’ (2005) 169 Justice of the Peace & Local Government Law 72

[11] Julian Broadhead, ‘Life stories untold’, (2004) 154 New Law Journal 197

[12] Julian Broadhead, Unlocking the Prison Muse (Cambridge Academic 2006) 29

[13] Sally Lipscombe, ‘Criminal Memoirs’ (2012) House of Commons Library

[14] Hayley Killengrey, ‘To what extent do criminal biographies add to our understanding of criminality?’ (2009) Internet Journal of Criminology <www.internetjournalofcriminology> accessed 15 July 2014

[15] ibid 15

[16] ibid 6

[17] ibid

[18] Ibid 7

[19] Melissa Dearey et al, ‘Prison(er) Auto/biography, “True Crime”, and Teaching, Learning, and Research in Criminology’, (2011) 23 Critical Survey 86, 87

[20] ibid 89

[21] Mike Nellis, ‘Prose and cons: offender autobiographies, penal reform and probation training’, (2002) 41 The Howard Journal (2002) 434

[22] David Wilson, ‘News of the screws: a critical analysis of some recent prison officer autobiographies’ (2010) Prison Service Journal  3

[23] Unnamed, ‘Picaresque novel’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica) <> accessed 15 July 2014

[24] Unnamed, ‘Facts about the Newgate Calendar’  (British Library) < > accessed 15 July 2014

[25] Dearey et al (n 19)

[26] Unnamed, ‘Execution Sermons’ (Early American Literature) <> accessed 15 July 2014

[27] Wilson 2010  3

[28] Dearey et al (n 19) 90

[29] Jean Murley, The Rise of True Crime: 20th-Century Murder and American Popular Culture (Praeger 2008)

[30] Dearey et al (n 19) 91

[31] ibid

[32] ibid

[33] Broadhead (n 12)

[34] Killengrey (n 14) 21

[35] Rod Caird, A Good and Useful Life (Granada Publishing Limited 1974) Preface

[36] Walter Probyn, Angel Face: The Making of a Criminal (George Allen & Unwin 1977) 16

[37] ibid 16

[38] ibid

[39] ibid 17

[40] Mark Leech, A Product of the System (Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1993) 9-10

[41] John William Fletcher, A Menace to Society (Paul Elek Books 1972)

[42] John McVicar, McVicar By Himself (Artnik 2007)

[43] Caird (n 35)

[44] Probyn (n 36)

[45] Leech (n 40)

[46] Trevor Hercules, Labelled a Black Villain (Fourth Estate 1989)

[47] Broadhead (n 12) 1; Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (Digireads 2011[1897])

[48] Broadhead (n 12) 11; Wilfred Mccartney, Walls Have Mouths (Victor Gallancz 1936)

[49] Broadhead (n 12) 14; Jim Phelan, Jail Journey (Secker and Warburg 1940)

[50] Broadhead (n 12) 17-18; Brendon Behan, Borstal Boy (Arrow 1990[1958])

[51] Leech (n 40) 75

[52] Caird (n 35) 9

[53] Leech (n 40) 69

[54] Hercules (n 46) 30

[55] ibid 31

[56] ibid 32

[57] Caird (n 35) 9

[58] Fletcher (n 41) 129; McVicar (n 42) 27-9, 90, 109-11; Carid (n 35) 13-16, 19-23; Probyn (n 36) 37; Leech (n 40) 84-5

[59] Caird (n 35) 15

[60] Philip Hancock and Yvonne Jewkes, ‘Architectures of incarceration: The spatial pains of imprisonment’, (2011) 13 Punishment & Society 611, 616

[61] Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (Oxford UP 2008)

[62] Caird (n 35) 15

[63] Hancock and Jewkes (n 60) 614

[64] ibid 617

[65] Yvonne Jewkes, ed, Handbook on Prisons (Routledge 2013) 188

[66] ibid 192

[67] Fletcher (n 41) 33

[68] Caird (n 35) 7

[69] ibid 32

[70] ibid 32-3

[71] ibid 167-68

[72] ibid 168

[73] Broadhead (n 12) 29

[74] McVicar (n 42) 13-14

[75] ibid 14

[76] Broadhead (n 12) 21

[77] Hercules (n 46) 86

[78] Caird (n 35) 57

[79] ibid 4

[80] ibid 8

[81] ibid 9

[82] ibid 10

[83] ibid 11

[84] Probyn (n 36) 36

[85] ibid 37

[86] ibid 36

[87] ibid; my emphasis

[88] ibid 37

[89] Leech (n 40) 41

[90] ibid

[91] Hercules (n 46) 32

[92] ibid

[93] ibid 33

[94] Caird (n 35) 29-30

[95] Leech (n 40) 41

[96] ibid

[97] ibid; my emphasis

[98] Hercules (n 46) 39

[99] Caird (n 35) 19

[100] Probyn (n 36) 36

[101] ibid 37

[102] Hercules (n 46) 32

[103] Fletcher (n 41) 10

[104] ibid

[105] ibid

[106] McVicar (n 42) 27

[107] ibid

[108] ibid 28

[109]Hercules (n 46) 127-28

[110] ibid 151

[111] ibid

[112] ibid 182

[113] Caird (n 35) 58; McVicar (n 42) 48; Leech (n 40) 73; Hercules (n 46) 109

[114] McVicar (n 42) 119

[115] Caird (n 35) 57-8

[116] Probyn (n 36) 109

[117] Hercules (n 46) 32

[118] Probyn (n 36) 36

[119] Caird (n 35) 7; my emphasis

[120] Fletcher (n 41) 88

[121] ibid

[122] ibid 89

[123] ibid

[124] Leech (n 40) 41; my emphasis

[125] ibid 87

[126] ibid

[127] ibid

[128] ibid

[129] ibid 197, 85

[130] Probyn (n 36) 41

[131] ibid 43

[132] ibid 59

[133] ibid 233

[134] Sandra Walklate, Imagining the Victim of Crime (Open University Press 2007) 27

[135] Probyn (n 36) 133

[136] ibid 139

[137] ibid 145

[138] ibid 139

[139] ibid 225

[140]Leech (n 40) 54

[141] ibid 97

[142] [1984] 1 All ER 799

[143] Leech (n 40) 55

[144] ibid 57-9

[145] [1984] 3 All ER 897

[146] Leech (n 40) 97

[147] ibid 114; [1988] 1 All ER 485 (HL)

[148] See for instance, Caird (n 35) 115

[149] Leech (n 40) 122

[150] ibid

[151] ibid 123

[152] ibid 122-23

[153] ibid 123

[154] ibid 156

[155] ibid 27, 135

[156] ibid 127

[157] ibid 177-78

[158] Dorothy Sheridan, ‘Writing to the Archive: Mass-Observation as Autobiography’, (1993) 27 Sociology 27, 33

[159] David Wilson and Steven McCabe, ‘How HMP Grendon “Works” in the Words of Those Undergoing Therapy’, (2002) 41 The Howard Journal 279

[160] Frank Cook, Hard Cell (Bluecoat Press 1998)

[161] Alex Alexandrovich, Longest Injustice (Waterside Press 1999)

[162] Probyn (n 36) 47

[163] ibid

[164] ibid

[165] ibid

[166] Leech (n 40) 181-82

[167] ‘Unnamed’, ‘On This Day’ (BBC 1 April) <> accessed 15 July 2014

[168] ibid

[169] ibid

[170] ibid

[171] Leech (n 40) 57

[172] Hugh Collins, Autobiography of a Murderer (Macmillan 1997)

[173] Johnny Steele, The Bird That Never Flew (Mainstream 2002)

[174] Jeffrey Archer, A Prison Diary, 3 vols. (Macmillan)

[175] Erwin James, A Life Inside: A Prisoner’s Notebook (Atlantic Books 2003)

[176] John Hoskison, Inside: One Man’s Experience of Prison (1998)

[177] Razor Smith, A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun (Penguin, 2004)

[178] Jonathan Aitken, Porridge and Passion (Continuum, 2005)

[179] Smith (n 177) 401

[180] ibid

[181] ibid 402

[182] ibid 402 Hoskison (n 176) 149

[183] Smith (n 177) 403

[184] ibid 404

[185] ibid 404-5

[186] Also see Rhidan Hughes, ‘Drug Injectors and Prison Mandatory Drug Testing’, (2000) 39 The Howard Journal 1, 7, Ben Crewe, ‘Prisoner society in the era of hard drugs’, (2005) 7 Punishment & Society 457

[187] Hughes (n 186) 9

[188] Smith (n 177) 404

[189] Hoskison (n 176) 23

[190] ibid 90

[191] ibid 28

[192] ibid 454

[193] Aitken (n 178) 18

[194] ibid 93

[195] Hoskison (n 176) 120

[196] Smith (n 177) 421

[197] Aitken (n 178) 139

[198] ibid 173

[199] Michael O’Brien, Prisons Exposed (FSC 2012)

[200] ibid 17

[201] ibid 15

[202] ibid 71

[203] ibid 84

[204] [1983] 1 AC 1 HL(E)

[205] O’Brien (n 199) 126

[206] ibid

[207] ibid 17

[208] [2002] 35 EHRR 19

[209] [2001] 33 EHRR 913

[210] [2003] UKHL 51

[211] Hercules (n 46) 7

[212] ibid

[213] ibid

[214]ibid  26

[215] ibid 99

[216] ibid 80-1

[217] ibid 28

[218] ibid

[219] ibid 27

[220] Loic Wacquant, ‘Deadly symbiosis: When ghetto and prison meet and mesh’, (2001) Punishment & Society

[221] Hercules (n 46) 184

[222] ibid 183-84

[223] ibid 50

[224] Jewkes (n 65) 123

[225] Fletcher (n 41) 10

[226]Hercules (n 46) 166-67

[227] ibid 167

[228] ibid 29

[229] ibid 33, 34, 49

[230] ibid 41

[231] ibid 44

[232] ibid 109

[233] Coretta Phillips, ‘Negotiating identities: Ethnicity and social relations in a young offenders’ institution’ (2008) 12 Theoretical Criminology 313

[234] Broadhead (n 12) 44

[235] Hercules (n 46) 160

[236] Broadhead (n 12) 44

[237] Jewkes (n 65) 268

[238] ibid 268-69

[239] ibid 270

[240] O’Brien (n 199) 36-40

[241] Ros Burnett and Graham Farrell, (1994) 14 Reported and Unreported Racial Incidents in Prisons Occasional Paper Oxford: Centre for Criminological Research

[242] Kimmett Edgar and Carol Martin, Conflicts and Violence in Prison: Research Findings, Economic and Social Research Council 2000; Edgar and Martin, Perceptions of Race and Conflict: Perspectives of Minority Ethnic Prisoners and of Prison Officers. Home Office Online Report 2004 < > accessed 15 July 2014

[243] Jewkes (n 65) 280

[244] ibid 284

[245] Edgar and Martin 2004 (n 251)

[246] Jewkes (n 65) 285-6

[247] ibid 287

[248] ibid 288

[249] Broadhead (n 12) 45-52

[250] Molly Cutpurse, A Year in Holloway 2nd ed (2011)

[251] Joan Henry, Who Lie in Gaol (Victor Gallancz 1952)

[252] Joan Henry, Yield to the Night (Victor Gollancz, 1954)

[253] Broadhead (n 12) 45-6

[254] ibid 50

[255] Jane Buxton and Margaret Turner, Gate Fever (Cresset Press 1962)

[256] ibid Preface

[257] Anna Reynolds, Tightrope (Sidgwick and Jackson 1991)

[258] Broadhead (n 12) 47-8

[259] Phoebe Willetts, Invisible Bars (Epworth Press 1965)

[260] ibid 84

[261] ibid 93

[262] ibid 104

[263] ibid 7, 49

[264] ibid 50

[265] ibid 51

[266] ibid 79

[267] Audrey Peckham, A Woman in Custody (Fontana Paperbacks 1985)

[268] ibid 13

[269] ibid 239

[270] ibid 35

[271] ibid 52

[272] ibid 192

[273] ibid

[274] ibid 194

[275] ibid 178

[276] ibid

[277] Judith Ward, Ambushed: My Story (Vermilion 1993)

[278] ibid 65-6

[279] ibid 66

[280] ibid

[281] John Milton, Complete Poems and Major Prose ed. M.Y. Hughes (Hackett 2003)

[282] Ward (n 277) 66

[283] Probyn (n 36) 36

[284] Ward (n 277) 36

[285] ibid 53

[286] ibid 49

[287] ibid 55

[288] ibid 89

[289] ibid

[290] ibid 144

[291] ibid 41

[292] ibid 73

[293] ibid 38

[294] ibid 3; also see O’Brien (n 199) 85-8

[295] ibid 42

[296] Rosie Johnston, Inside Out (Penguin 1989)

[297] ibid 21

[298] ibid 56

[299] ibid 109

[300] ibid 70

[301] ibid 61

[302] ibid 20

[303] ibid 43

[304] Ruth Wyner, From the Inside: Dispatches from a Women’s Prison (Aurum Press 2003)

[305] ibid 21

[306] ibid

[307] ibid 23

[308] ibid 29

[309] ibid 5

[310] ibid 57

[311] ibid

[312] ibid

[313] ibid 5

[314] ibid 113

[315] ibid 213

[316] Jewkes (n 65) 189

[317] Ward (n 277) 72

[318] ibid 71

[319] Hancock and Jewkes (n 60) 613

[320] Hercules (n 46) 182

[321] ibid 55

[322] ibid 130

[323] ibid 182

[324] Hoskison (n 176) 91

[325] Ward (n 277) 78

[326] ibid 79

[327] ibid 78

[328] ibid 79

[329] Johnston (n 296) 32

[330] ibid 40

[331] ibid 30, 79

[332] ibid 15

[333] ibid 98

[334] ibid 58

[335] ibid 138

[336] ibid 216

[337] ibid 109

[338] Wyner (n 304) 127

[339] Johnston (n 296) 24

[340] Leech (n 40) 142

[341] Robert Gluck, ‘Long Note on New Narrative’, 1 Narrativity < www.sfsu-edu/-newlit/narrativity/issue_one/gluck.html > accessed 15 July 2014

[342] Willetts (n 259) 7

[343] Ward (n 277) 79

[344] Peckham (n 257) 178

[345] ibid

[346] Wyner (n 304) 190

[347] Johnston (n 296) Foreword

[348] Wyner (n 304) 111

[349] ibid 112

[350] Johnston (n 296) 225

[351] Stephanie Walker and Anne Worrall, ‘Life as a woman: the gendered pains of indeterminate imprisonment’ eds Y. Jewkes and H. Johnston, Prison Readings: A critical introduction to prisons and imprisonment (Routledge 2011) 255; Angela Devlin, Invisible Women (Waterside Press 1998) 30; Margaret S. Malloch, ‘Drug Use, Prison, and the Social Construction of Femininity’, (1999) Women’s Studies International Forum 352, 356

[352] House of Commons Justice Committee 2013, Women offenders: after the Corston Report

[353] Ruth Chigwada-Bailey, Black Women’s Experiences of Criminal Justice (Waterside Press 1997)

[354] ibid 104

[355] Justice Committee (n 265) 44

[356] Elaine Crawley and Richard Sparks, ‘Hidden Injuries?: Researching the Experiences of Older Men in English Prisons’, (2005) 44 The Howard Journal  345

[357] ibid 350, 352

[358] ibid 352

[359] ibid 354

[360] Elaine Crawley and Richard Sparks, ‘Is there life after imprisonment?: How elderly men talk about imprisonment and release’, (2006) 6 Criminology & Criminal Justice 2006 63

[361] ibid

[362] House of Commons Justice Committee 2013-14, Older Prisoners

[363] Azrini Wahidin, Older Women in the Criminal Justice System: Running Out of Time (Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2004)

[364] Egs: Damien Echols, Life after Death: Eighteen Years on Death Row (Atlantic Books 2014)

[365] Wilson (n 22) 3; Examples are Jim Dawkins, The Loose Screw (Apex 2008), Robert Douglas, At Her Majesty’s Pleasure (Hodder Paperbacks 2008), Ronnie Thompson, Screwed: The Truth about Life as a Prison Officer (Headline Review 2008)

[366] Wilson (n 22) 5


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Text © Andrew O'Day and used with his kind permission. This page was compiled by Tim Harris.

This page was first published to the internet Sunday 24th May 2015.