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‘Compelling, urgent and devastating. A triumph’ The Secret Barrister

‘Funny, heart-breaking and utterly authentic’ Dr Amanda Brown, author of THE PRISON DOCTOR

‘A breath-taking account of the UK’s crumbling prison system. Every politician and decision-maker involved in our prisons should be placed on 23-hour lockdown and made to read this book’ Nick Pettigrew, author of ANTI-SOCIAL

“I was what the older generation of prison officers called a ‘care bear’. It was my job to work with the prisoners most in danger of falling through the cracks and, if not deliver them safely to the community upon release, fully rehabilitated, then at least stop them from killing themselves or anyone else…”

Come with Angela Kirwin for a journey inside prison like no other. For over a decade she was a social care worker in some of Britain’s most notorious prisons.

Now she wants to tell the stories of the men she met, because she believes that prison is failing everyone, damaging the most vulnerable people in our societies, creating habitual criminals, leaving us all less safe and contributing to a society that is immeasurably less humane. Every year, we spend billions of pounds on a system that fundamentally doesn’t work.

Rather than a separate world full of people that aren’t like us, prison is where the most damaged and vulnerable people in our society end up and we all need to urgently care about that, so we can change it. Because the state of our prisons is criminal.

What's Inside

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Alastair Campbell
A brilliant, heartfelt, deeply moving and utterly enraging account of life inside Britain's failing prisons system. The chasm between the political rhetoric of 'Prison Works' and the reality of a system shredded by austerity is growing ever wider and this book from someone who has worked on the frontline should act as a wake up call for radical change. We are wasting billions on perpetuating failure, making rehabilitation harder than ever, destroying lives and contributing to crime rather than bringing it down
The Times
The most compelling account I've read from the other side of the fence....she digs instead into the complex backgrounds of the inmates in her care, while exploring the wider social and political problems that have turned prisons into a factory for reoffending...there are welcome moments of levity
Sarah Langford, author of IN YOUR DEFENCE
Fascinating and necessary, Criminal is a deeply humane look at an often inhumane system
Andrea Coomber QC (Hon.), Chief Executive, The Howard League for Penal Reform
Moving, informative, and terrifically readable, Angela Kirwin powerfully puts the case for a fundamental rethink of our failing approach to crime and punishment
Nick Pettigrew, author of ANTI-SOCIAL
A breath-taking account of the UK's crumbling prison system. Kirwin's wealth of experience matches insight, moral clarity, compassion and the ability to find humour and hope in even the darkest of corners. Deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as The Secret Barrister as an unflinching breakdown of how our criminal justice system is failing society. Every politician and decision-maker involved in our prisons should be placed on 23-hour lockdown and made to read this book
The Secret Barrister
Compelling, urgent and devastating. Criminal tells the stories from within our prisons that many - not least those in power - would rather went untold. How we treat the vulnerable, the broken and the irredeemable defines our humanity. Angela Kirwin's heartbreaking, beautifully rendered true-life tales forensically expose uncomfortable truths about how we order our society, how we relate to each other, and what we must change. A triumph
A.L. Kennedy
A beautiful book - honest, necessary, humane, funny and howlingly furious. The UK justice system is beyond broken and within that system, our prisons magnify everything that is cruel, expensively pointless, unjust and wilfully destructive in what passes for public policy. Kirwin describes the UK's squalid mass incarceration obsession with aching clarity, revealing it for what it is - a mechanism that produces suicide and reoffending, broken minds, broken communities and broken lives. Our prisons are criminal indeed
Fergus McNeill, Professor of Criminology and Social Work at the University of Glasgow
This highly engaging and accessible book - combining both revealing memoir of working in criminal justice and insightful commentary on it - deserves to be very widely read. It brings vividly to life what decades of research have also demonstrated: Criminalisation, as we practice it, does more harm than good, delivering or exacerbating injustice rather than justice. As Criminal makes abundantly clear, it's time for a radical change of approach
Criminal brings readers a well-grounded and well-written insight into what is really happening behind the walls of our prisons. The state of the prisons in England and Wales is worsening by the day. Her first-hand account is a clarion call for the public at large to insist on better approaches to crime and punishment
Faith Spear, The Criminal Justice Blog
'Criminal reveals the painful truth of a justice system in disarray, a prison estate not fit for purpose and its damaged population within its walls. Skilfully written and a credible read
The Observer
The book is at its best when she strips aways the physical and psychological walls that separate those inside from the communities that one day they will rejoin, however long ministers make their sentences...her plea for society to be more compassionate and prisons kinder, safer places, is heartfelt and humane.
The barbaric reality of life behind the wire in our dysfunctional prison estate is laid bare in Angela's visceral, compelling account. This book should be mandatory reading for those charged with the task of reducing crime
Daniel Lavelle, author of DOWN AND OUT
Everyone should read Criminal. It's brave and funny and moving and insightful
Evie Wyld
Compassionate and transformative. Unlike any portrayal of prison I've ever encountered. One of those books that if it gets into the right hands will genuinely make a difference
Dr Amanda Brown, author of THE PRISON DOCTOR
A funny, heart-breaking and utterly authentic journey inside prison. Everyone needs to read this book
Jonathan Aitken
This is an astonishingly powerful and authentic portrait of today's fatally flawed prison system. Angela Kirwin writes compellingly and researches meticulously. She weaves together her eyewitness narrative and her reforming zeal into a compelling story which should shake our national conscience
Janice Hallett, author of The Twyford Code
A vibrant, authentic and shocking personal account that blends heart-breaking stories with heart-stopping stats. There is no ignoring this book. Every member of society should read it because a failing prison system fails us all