From the back cover:
“It’s 2003, Tony Blair is still Prime Minister and a shy loner from London, Amber Campbell, joins the prison service searching for purpose.
Behind the walls of the women’s prison Amber is determined to prove that she has what it takes. She makes a pact with two close friends to support each other no matter what. However, the three Black women struggle when they experience discrimination and disappointment at every turn.
There is rising racial tension in her home town when twelve far right local councillors are elected. Amber reflects on the prison system in her blog and takes an emotional journey off the beaten track through Africa to find love.”
What did I think?
I was recently invited to review* Diary of a Prison Officer, written by Josie Channer. I have to say I was intrigued, the prison system is not something I am familiar with despite hours spent sitting on the sofa parked in front of Vera, The Split, Lewis and other dramatisations of the legal and justice system.
I found Channer’s account a humbling and moving view of what doesn’t work well in the prison system, including the impact on some of those detained in high security facilities. Her strong themes of equality were set against the backdrop of this system and a backpacking trip in Africa.
Written in a diary format, the shifting timelines and settings did become confusing at points, especially as there was no obvious connection in moving between them other than to show that there is life beyond the work. That said, there was a strong sense of purpose and finding oneself again after years of discrimination, false promises and unkind words.
Channer’s central character is a black, female prison officer, Amber Campbell, who works hard in a high security jail. Despite this, the male dominated system does not align to provide her, or her close friends, with a voice or opinion. Events take a turn and Amber steps in, showing herself to be both capable and able. As a reader you are left feeling frustrated that opportunities to demonstrate this were not afforded to her earlier.
This is a good, thought provoking story that gives rise to more questions than it answers. I would recommend it to anyone else who is interested in what actually goes on behind those high prison walls.
Where can you buy a copy?
Diary of a Prison Officer is available from all major book retailers and at Amazon paperback £5.65 and on Kindle £2.37 from and on Audible https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0892J2XLZ
Josie worked as a prison officer at Holloway Prison for many years and has a unique and specialist knowledge of how a prison is run.
Josie likes writes about criminal justice system, politics, women’s issues and Black British history. Her work has been published with online political magazines a number of times. She is passionate about addressing the barriers that women of colour face.
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*N.B. Thank you to Josie Channer for gifting me a copy of her book for review purposes, and to Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the book tour. All thoughts are my own. For more information, please see my disclosure page.