** BREAKFAST AT BRONZEFIELD
BREAKFAST AT BRONZEFIELD
‘I had no intention of leaving prison and letting my experiences there define me’.
I find prison memoirs to be fascinating – it’s a whole side of society I have never (and hope to never) experience and the words from those inside are an important way of knowing what’s actually going on outside of the biased press and politicians. This was my first memoir from a female prisoner and it was a really interesting insight. There are a lot of issues explored here from racism to sexism, mental health, exploration of education and rehabilitation programmes as well as what happens after you are released from prison which I haven’t seen in similar books before. There’s also a nice amount of statistics to back everything up – it really is an eye opener.
My only problem with the book is the author themselves; it’s very hard to take the upper hand on how badly she was treated in prison due to her race or background when her behaviour does little to back any of it up. After having gone to prison for violent assault against a police officer she then goes on to talk about multiple instances where she assaults prison guards in the same way. In one example she pours water over guard’s head, throws the bottle at her, kicks her and then jumps on top of her and begins to pull her braids out. The reason? Not providing additional burgers when they ran out in the canteen because she came down late. There’s other instances mentioned where she throws her TV out of a window, throws sour milk at a nurse and fakes suicide to get attention. These seem to continue right from when she gets to jail until she leaves it and really undermines any valid point she has to say on her treatment and the treatment of those around her.
It seems that she honestly seems oblivious to it – for example, she is astonished none of the approved houses will take her after she is released because of her ‘violent status’. She talks about how ridiculous and dangerous it is that the prison allowed her to move back home with her father who was a convicted violent offender. However, she doesn’t seem to have linked the point that they only made this choice after she threw a TV out of the window of her cell and kicked off enough to make them have to make that choice in the first place. She also talks a lot about how educated she is and laughs at the attempts to get prisoners jobs in Pret or Timpsons which she thinks are beneath her. Although there is surely a lot more that can be done to offer job opportunities for ex-prisoners at least there are some option available! I’m sure not all prisoners would want to lie on a job application like she did to get other work.
While the points made about the failings of the prison system are valid and important it’s a real shame that the author’s behaviour actually undermines some of these issues. If the author had been less violent and these issues had still been a problem it would be a much more powerful read although I appreciate her honesty and candour in talking about her behaviour and experiences.
Overall Breakfast at Bronzefield is an important read and raises some valid talking points about the way prisons are run today. Thank you to NetGalley & Sophie Campbell Books for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.