Sunday, 29 December 2019

A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins

A Bit Of A StretchA Bit Of A Stretch by Chris Atkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 2 days (in and out)

Publisher - Atlantic books

Source - Netgalley

Blurb from Goodreads

A shocking and darkly funny account of the reality of Britain's prisons.

Where can a tin of tuna buy you clean clothes? Which British education system struggles with 50% illiteracy? Where do teetotal Muslims attend AA meetings? Where is it easier to get 'spice' than paracetamol? Where does self-harm barely raise an eyebrow?

Welcome to Her Majesty's Prison Service, a creaking and surreal world that has been left to rot for decades in the shadows of polite society. Like most people, documentary-maker Chris Atkins didn't spend much time thinking about prisons. But after becoming embroiled in a dodgy scheme to fund his latest film, he was sent down for five years. His new home would be HMP Wandsworth, one of the oldest, largest, and most dysfunctional prisons in Europe.

Horrifying, moving, and darkly funny, this is the unvarnished depiction of what he found. With a cast of characters ranging from wily drug dealers to corrupt screws to senior officials bent on endless (and fruitless) reform, this is the reality behind the locked gates. Full of incredible and hilarious stories, A Bit of a Stretch reveals the true scale of our prison crisis and why it is costing us all.


My Review

I hadn't heard of Chris Atkins, a film maker who got caught up in a huge tax scam and went to jail for it. He was involved in a very small part of it but got sent to jail and this is his story of how it came about, life inside during his time, how he survived and what he experienced.

Life behind bars, we have all watched a million tv shows and read a few books on it, this one was a wee bit different for me, I felt anyway. He tells us of friendships, behaviours of the inmates, the privileges, punishments, guards good and bad and the difference between categories of prisoners and how difficult it can be to get the most basic of requests when you are incarcerated.

The book also shows how more advantaged Atkins was because of his class, skin colour and education compared to some of his fellow inmates. There is a lot of sadness, frustration and downright horror at some of the things that happened, suicide, death, loneliness, abuse of power - it really is an eye opener to people who have never experienced or been exposed to prison life. Hard to read at times due to the brutality of some of the situations, circumstances and just horror of jail life but interesting to see the huge impact it had on Atkins, 3.5/5 for me this time.

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