Monday 4 April 2022

Strangeways: A Prison Officer's Story by Neil Samworth

Strangeways: A Prison Officer's StoryStrangeways: A Prison Officer's Story by Neil Samworth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time Taken To Read - 1.5 days

Pages - 304

Publisher - Pan

Source - Bought

Blurb from Goodreads

Neil ‘Sam’ Samworth spent eleven years working as a prison officer in HMP Manchester, aka Strangeways. A tough Yorkshireman with a soft heart, Sam had to deal with it all – gangsters and gangbangers, terrorists and psychopaths, addicts and the mentally ill. Men who should not be locked up and men who should never be let out.

Strangeways is a shocking and at times darkly funny account of life in a high security prison. Sam tackles cell fires and self-harmers, and goes head to head with some of the most dangerous men in the country. He averts a Christmas Day riot after turkey is taken off the menu and replaced by fish curry, and stands up to officers who abuse their position. He describes being attacked by prisoners, and reveals the problems caused by radicalization and the drugs flooding our prisons.

As staffing cuts saw Britain’s prison system descend into crisis, the stress of the job – the suicides, the inhumanity of the system, and one assault too many - left Sam suffering from PTSD. This raw, searingly honest memoir is a testament to the men and women of the prison service and the incredibly difficult job we ask them to do.

My Review

I have been finding myself drawn more and more to these type of real life stories books, learning more about some of the jobs some folk just couldn't/wouldn't do. Working in the jail has to be the top of a lot of lists. Neil Samworth takes us through his years briefly before becoming an officer, his early days on the job then throughout his years to what finally lead him to leaving and life after being an officer.

Now I have read a few books on healthcare in prisons, inmates in prison so it was a different take this time. The inmates behaviours are often shocking especially if you haven't read these types of books before - I think one of the things that stood out in this one was also the behaviour of some of his colleagues, shocking to say the least.

The prison system is shocking and this gives an eye opener to just how bad some of it is, what the officers have to endure, cuts, stress, violence, lack of support so so much that is just horrendous. Samworth is very honest about the struggles, personal, professional, the good and the bad, it is a very honest, brutal and at times shocking. Some dark humour (when you work in places like this and your person and health, physical/mental are constantly pushed/beaten upon you develop it), depressing and challenging passages aswell as giving ideas of what he thinks would improve the system. 3.5/5 for me this time, some of it was hard going, some of it is almost diary like and I imagine this book helped the author's mental health and dealing with issues long after he has left this job behind. Not for the easily offended or squeamish, a stark look at life behind the bars as a prison officer in the UK.

View all my reviews


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Always something that fascinates me, I've just been watching a documentary on the 1990 Strangeway riot which made for compelling if disturbing viewing. Definitely one for the Wish List, this sounds like a read I'd doubtlessly find interesting.

  3. Sounds like a book that has a lot of grit.


Book Soulmates

Well from I first started reviewing

Get your own free Blogoversary button!

More Competitions available at

Blog Archive