An Inside Story
By Hilary Beauchamp
HOLLOWAY PRISON- A PLACE OF TERROR!
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers
This is a most human and intriguing account of something which most citizens do not want to know about: locking up women.
Reading through these sad pages, one can reflect on the value and inspiration of Hilary Beauchamp’s approach as a valued social contribution to recent studies in applied criminology and a work which all researchers and students should read and critically appreciate, especially if they have not been involved hitherto in ‘the sharp end’ of things.
All prisons are, by their nature, a ‘place of terror’ but Holloway has a special distinction as it houses the numerically miniscule number of female offenders who pose a serious risk to our society here. Whatever the arguments against incarcerating women, and there are fresh policy initiatives in this area with the new government from the summer of 2010, Beauchamp tells it how it is and we welcome her approach. Few will understand many aspects of this tale unless they have taught prisoners such as some of those depicted here.
There are 8 chapters in around 200 pages with a useful index and an alarming but positive epilogue. Beauchamp has the aim of producing an enjoyable read, whilst conveying a true sense of the nature of imprisonment for women under a ‘prison works’ policy currently under review. She concludes- “what else should I have done to try and better the lot of the women… or others from such backgrounds with similar problems?” Well, she has done a great deal here!
The book brings out the differences between those who see the need for a creative and educational outlet for prisoners, to those with a ‘throw the key away’ approach. Beauchamp brings into sharp focus her individual vignettes which illustrate, generally, the human misery which permeates the story lines throughout.
‘Holloway Prison: an inside story’ makes good reading for a wide market: from law students and social workers, to teachers and all involved in socially useful work where Hilary Beauchamp has certainly picked up the vibes of what we do as part of the criminal justice process as lawyers.
All the calamities which lead most people to a prison sentence are covered in this ‘society within a society’ group history.
What we found most attractive about the way Beauchamp covers the story is the ever present constructive approach which works for so many in education, especially those in custody.
Lawyers and judges know that the biggest issues for many offenders cover policies for the poor, the mentally ill and the marginalized minorities as we see them at their crucial moment. If there ever was an antidote to this historically tagged ‘place of terror’ then it is firm education policies to raise knowledge and an end to short sentences especially for women in the ‘tv licence fee’ cases, and the like, where custody arises effectively from debt. Beauchamp covers all categories of offender with a rare glimpse into a place of terror which we should know more about... and reform accordingly from the lessons learnt here to tackle this part of penal policy.
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