Author: Dr. Amanda Brown
Rating: 5 Stars
Dates read: 27 Aug 19 – 30 Aug 19
Publication date: 13 Jun 2019
Genre(s): Memoir, Prison
Dr Amanda Brown has treated inmates in the UK’s most infamous prisons – first in young offenders’ institutions, then at the notorious Wormwood Scrubs and finally at Europe’s largest women-only prison in Europe, Bronzefield. From miraculous pregnancies to dirty protests, and from violent attacks on prisoners to heartbreaking acts of self-harm, she has witnessed it all. In this memoir, Amanda reveals the stories, the patients and the cases that have shaped a career helping those most of us would rather forget.
*I was given an eARC of this book courtesy of HQ and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review*
I am one of those people who is fascinated by prison programmes. A person who watches with intrigue as different prisons are opened to the TV world and we can have an insight inside. I’ve toured different prisons round the world, and find stories from inside bars interesting. I jumped at the chance to read and review a book based on a different part of prison life than I have previously been exposed to.
Dr. Amanda Brown has openly and interestingly shared accounts of patients, encounters, and experiences of her life as a doctor within various prisons in the UK. She came to prison medicine late, and I think her experience outside prisons and then transitioning in was really unique. My Mum is a doctor and many of the things I heard her mentioning about changing statistics and treatment methodology were echoed in Dr. Brown’s assessment of general practice and was therefore really interesting to hear.
I absolutely loved her accounts of adapting to life within prison. I found her words about passing through gates and keyed doors really interesting. She speaks with a knowing and understanding tone about how it feels to pass through prison wings as someone who is not locked up. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be in a prison for work or for detainment, but her account was real and powerful and gave me a really interesting insight to what it might be like.
One of the most interesting bits of the book was the apprehension that Dr. Brown felt regarding working in a women’s prison as opposed to a detention centre for men. She worked in some notorious prisons in the UK, yet seemed initially to find the idea of working with men preferable. Her reasonings were haunting and honest, something that carried throughout the books, and I felt a real solidarity and connection with her as she discussed her reservations and challenges as she moved from the different prisons.
Some of the tricks and tacks of the inmates, whether male or female, were ingenious. Dr. Brown educated me as the reader as she learnt, a skill in itself, which made it feel as though I was learning and becoming more worldly simply by reading her accounts. Some of the heartbreaking cases and crazy hours were equally exhilarating and exhausting to read never mind work, and I couldn’t help but admiring Dr. Brown for reinventing herself, challenging herself, and pushing herself to improve as a clinician. It is clear that the job had changed her personal life, but she negotiated this wife aplomb and accounted funny tales of sleeping bags and chocolate that were so real and disarmingly normal in a definitely not normal world.
This account was heart warming and breaking in equal measures and showed the strength within both Dr. Brown, and the UK health and prison services. It was a fascinating and eye opening read that gave a completely different account of prison life, and is a thoroughly recommended read.