A Bit of a Stretch
‘Shocking, scathing, entertaining.’ Guardian
‘Incredibly compelling.’ The Times
‘Heart-breaking.’ Sunday Times
Where can a tin of tuna buy you clean clothes? Where is it easier to get ‘spice’ than paracetamol? Where does self-harm barely raise an eyebrow?
Welcome to Her Majesty’s Prison Service. 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 largest and most dysfunctional prisons in Europe.
With a cast of characters ranging from wily drug dealers to senior officials bent on endless reform, this powerful memoir uncovers the horrifying reality behind the locked gates. Filled with dark humour and shocking stories, A Bit of a Stretch reveals why our creaking prison system is sorely costing us all – and why you should care.
An important, urgent and entertaining memoir. It made me laugh, cry my eyes out and think hard, not only about forgiveness, but about love and life in general. An essential read. * Sathnam Sanghera - bestselling author of The Boy with the Topknot * Honest and authentic. Atkins perfectly captures the madness, hope and despair of prison. Please read this. * Professor David Wilson - founding Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University and former prison governor * Harrowing... required reading for anybody concerned with what entitles a society to call itself civilised. * Law Gazette * Absolutely extraordinary. Heartbreaking without being self-pitying, shocking without being gratuitous and, of course, very, very funny. * John Niven - novelist and screenwriter * Shocking, funny, and very moving. * Mark Thomas - comedian * Fabulous. Candid, funny and never self-pitying, this is a must-read insight into why prison simply doesn't work. * Jon Snow - presenter, Channel 4 News * Gripping, warm and empathetic. Atkins exposes the shocking gap between what politicians claim about prison and the humiliating reality. You'll roar with laughter before turning to deep despair. * Isabel Hardman - author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians * Funny, shocking and powerful. * The Secret Barrister * Powerful and highly readable. * Peter Dawson - Director of the Prison Reform Trust and former prison governor * Heartbreaking and hilarious. * Christie Watson - bestselling author of The Language of Kindness * A Bit of a Stretch shows a system in chaos, as guards struggle to deal with mentally ill, poorly educated men housed in decaying old buildings. It is also, in places, very funny. * Helen Lewis, The Atlantic * Terrifically vivid... what makes the book so riveting is that Atkins takes us behind the statistics to show us prison life in all its chaotic, sometimes surreal weirdness. * Reader's Digest * Powerful... a dispassionate record of the grinding down of the human soul, deliberate hopelessness, insane and moribund bureaucracy, the whims of bullying guards, roll calls, curses, kicks and punches. * Roger Lewis, The Telegraph * A highly readable and thought-provoking account, which illuminates a failing and anachronistic institution in dire need of a radical overhaul. * Daily Mail * A razor-sharp and darkly funny memoir... * Spectator * A soul-searching account... A pacy memoir which is imbued with a dark humour... heartbreaking. [Atkins is] honest enough to have left in the parts that would make his mother wince. * Sunday Times * Surreal, darkly funny, at times horrifying but always humane account of what it's like to be locked up. * Observer * An incredibly compelling account, not just because of Atkins' incongruity and his knack for black, observational humour, but because it lays bare a system that has become utterly dysfunctional. Atkins is thrust into the heart of Britain's prison crisis and can never quite believe what he is seeing. It's a sort of Kafkaesque haplessness. A bleak catalogue of absurdity. * The Times * Shocking, scathing, entertaining... If you thought you knew how bad British prisons are, you haven't read this book... It's an inside story to make you weep at the incompetence, stupidity and viciousness of the current system. * Guardian *
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