‘The Prison Doctor’ by Dr. Amanda Brown
Published in 2019 ‘The Prison Doctor’ is one of a number of medical memoirs to have been taking off in the UK recently – already a Sunday Times Bestseller! Having enjoyed ‘This is Going to Hurt’ by Adam Kay and ‘War Doctor’ by David Knott this felt like a natural extension of that genre. When I ordered my copy I was hoping for an ‘easier’ read to take on a plane to France with me, however, it didn’t arrive until I was already back in the UK – d’oh!
The blurb reads…
Dr Amanda Brown treats inmates in the UK’s most infamous prisons. From miraculous pregnancies to dirty protests, and from violent attacks on prisoners to heartbreaking acts of self-harm, she has witnessed it all from her patients.
In this eye-opening, inspirational memoir, Amanda reveals the stories, the patients and cases that have shaped a career spent helping those in need.
I’m going to stake my pitch early and say I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it served the purpose I bought it for. Instead of reading it on a plane, I read it on a long train journey from London to Manchester and back. It’s the perfect commuting book. With a chronologically based narrative, it is an easy story to dip in and out of. It’s not full of technical jargon or out of the box theoretical ideas. In short it doesn’t require 100% of your head space to immerse yourself in the story.
On the other hand, after a while I found that the narrative often dragged. Despite being broken into three clear parts: a boys prison, a mens prison, and a women’s prison – I found myself getting bored and wishing there was more pace and urgency. The three sections of the book showed evidential character development on the part of Dr. Brown, and I found myself being drawn in to support both her and the prisoners that she served. Nevertheless, each section was peppered with exerts about how her work was affecting her personal life which felt jarring to read. For me personally, these exerts were enough to affect the narrative, but not enough to provide much needed context; they also didn’t feel completed: there was no clear outcome or end point.
I did enjoy her tone. Dr. Brown managed to maintain a non-judgemental outlook throughout the whole book. It also made me think about the British prison system – which I can honestly say is not something I had given a huge deal of thought to before. In light of the recent news that our current (although who knows for how much longer!) Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has just announced funding for an additional 10,000 prison beds, Dr. Brown’s insights inside of prisons feel extremely valuable. I think it helps the reader start to ask important questions about incarceration, rehabilitation, and community cohesion. A quick google search for UK reoffending statistics in young people shows that what we are doing right now is not working, and throwing money at creating new prison places is not necessarily the solution.
Although ‘The Prison Doctor’ was not my favourite book I have read this year, I do think that it is the beginning of a really important conversation. I would love to find equivalent books by a Prison Governor and Prison Officer – to hear their views about the UK justice/prison system. I believe the more the UK general population can engage with specialists and experts, the better chance we have of truly becoming a welcoming, tolerating, progressive society.
The Prison Doctor in Facts:
Author: Dr. Amanda Brown
First Published Date: 2019
Publishing House: HQ, Harper Collins