BOOK REVIEW The Little Book of Prison
Reviewed by: David Pickup
Author: Frankie Owens
Publisher: Waterside Press Ltd
Lawyers hardly get a mention in this beginners’ guide to surviving prison. This is surprising - to us lawyers at least - as we think we are essential. Surely we have roles in the interview, trial and sentencing process? Hopefully we are there to ensure some criminals at least are restored to their friends and relations.
The reality is we are low down on prisoners’ pecking order. The important people are those who can make a prisoner’s life less of a misery - people in charge of prison food, jobs or cells. The only real point of interest in lawyers for this defendant is whether his brief would be attractive. He seemed to come up trumps, as the defence barrister was and succinctly explained, 'you’re stood on a trap door and the judge is holding the lever'. A nice way of putting it.
Not many of us have any idea what being arrested, held on remand and imprisoned is like. This prisoner got a fairly short sentence and had served much of it on remand but his experience was grim to say to the least. What is surprising is the humour and how positive the writer is. It was written by a prisoner while he was serving his first and hopefully last sentence. It is a frank and fairly fruity guide to surviving going to prison: what to wear, what to say, who to trust. As the writer quotes from another ex-con, 'time, It’s all about time. A time to punish, punished by time'. It has helpful advice on what brand trainers to wear to court; how to have your hair cut before trial; shaven apparently, and what to do and what not to do in the shower - don’t ask.
It is an amazingly funny but rude, and at times positive book - plus a massive argument for using prison to teach and train people useful skills. What we do not know is whether it will be his last or not only his first prison sentence. Yes it should be read by all magistrates and judges but most lawyers as well would benefit - even the unattractive ones.
David Pickup is a partner in Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott