Few books have had such an impact on me as one I read recently called “The Prison Doctor” which, as the name implies, is a true record written by a female doctor with years of experience working inside some of the UK’s most infamous jails.
Written by Dr. Amanda Brown, this no-holes-barred account demonstrates what life is like in some of our notorious prisons – and it’s not a pretty sight. From miraculous pregnancies to dirty protests, and from violent attacks on prisoners to heart-breaking acts of self-harm, Dr. Brown has witnessed it all.
Yet what amazed me about the book was the way in which she dealt with her clients in a very non-judgemental way. She tells of the effect a bad up-bringing can have on people later on in life, especially if it is coupled with drug and alcohol addictions. Although Dr. Brown does not say she is a Christian, her actions are one of trying to understand their predicament while not dismissing their horrendous crimes. She observed life at the very sharp end with all its human degradation and misery, sometimes leading to people committing suicide or self-harming when they could no longer handle the pain of life.
I found this book to be a really honest account. It gave a completely different picture to the one the media normally put out about prison being like a luxury holiday camp and highlighted instances where prisoners were put into complete isolation in SEG (segregation)
or were stuck in their cells for 23-hours a day with no association. The clever ones tried to educate themselves and improve their future life chances while, for many, prison life was just a revolving door and they had become so institutionalised that prison WAS their life. It also talked about the prisoners’ frustrations and poor anger management which often lead to horrific acts of cruelty being meted out to others – it was very much survival of the fittest and a dog-eat-dog attitude to life.
Many prisoners opened up to Dr. Brown as she treated them as people, not numbers. Often, they had suffered years of mental, physical and psychological trauma and abuse from child-hood. Prison was also often seen as a sanctuary away from parental violence or the prisoners had experienced domestic violence from partners.
One has to be very mindful of the victims of these perpetrators and no-one can completely understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes if they’ve not been there. It’s very easy to be non-judgemental if you’ve never suffered as a result of crime but I’m led to believe that the current prison practise only educates many prisoners to be better criminals who re-offend. Just constantly locking people up and then them coming back following release seems completely ineffective in the long run. For years, people involved in the justice system have been trying to solve the dilemma of re-offending rates and have tried many new and abstract methods to tackle the problem. This is such a complex area and one that will take long-term, painstaking work to resolve, if ever.
I think it must have been a very difficult job for Dr. Brown to work in the prison environment without becoming prejudiced about some of the most notorious criminals she had to help.
It certainly made me thankful that I was never tempted to become involved in crime but, if I had, I would have really appreciated someone with the human kindness displayed by the likes of Dr. Brown.
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