Book – Screwed: The Truth About Life as a Prison Officer
Author – Ronnie Thompson
Year – 2008
Genre – Memoir
Pages – 359
Bought for me by Katy George
Following on from my stint playing the evil Jim Fenner in our production of Bad Girls: The Musical, my director Katy bought me this expose of life within the prison service. Controversial for its no nonsense appraisal of prison life from the eyes of one of the prison guards, it has received a lot of praise from those who work in prisons, and those who are less eager to be there.
Within a few pages, I thought I was going to have to stop reading this book. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to suggest that there is more swearing in this book than in any other book I have ever read. And it is all unnecessary. Thompson sticks swearwords in to everything. The number of f###s and c###s in the book is ridiculous, and within a few pages you are bored of it. He is also an insufferable lad. Spending his whole time getting hammered, and talking about how he hates screws (prison officers) who beat up inmates, but it is fine to give them a bit-of-a-talking-to-in-their-cell-if-you-know-what-I-mean. His entire demeanour irritated me from the start, and I seriously considered stopping reading just to not have to read any more of his nonsense.
I am quite glad I persevered though, as once you get past the ridiculous style of the book, it is actually pretty gripping. Thompson’s stories are really interesting, and you get the impression that he isn’t making any of it up. He is staunchly against the kind of screws who bring in drugs for the inmates, and who abuse their power, but still does a fair few things that I think are pushing it anyway. He doesn’t seem to see the problem in this a lot of the time, and so you do at least come away thinking that despite him thinking that it is all okay when he does it instead of someone else, he is actually telling the truth.
And if he is, then there are some crazy things that happen in prison. Whilst all of these stories are funny or interesting, I think that the main point to take away is just how severely understaffed the prison service is. The most shocking statistic I read in the book, is that Thompson was accepted to serve two years after his interview process. How many good people are going to wait around for that long before they have found and settled into a less stressful job?
Should you happen to pick up a copy of Screwed, push on through that (bad) language barrier, and I think you’ll find a book that is worth a read.