Two days before Christmas 2013, former MP Denis MacShane entered one of Europe’s harshest prisons. Having pleaded guilty to false accounting at the Old Bailey, he had been sentenced to six months in jail. Upon arrival at Belmarsh Prison, his books and personal possessions were confiscated and he was locked in a solitary cell for up to twenty-three hours a day. Denis was the latest MP condemned to serve as an example in the wake of the expenses scandal. Written with scavenged pens and scraps of paper, this diary is a compelling account of his extraordinary experiences in Belmarsh and, later, Brixton. Recording the lives of his fellow prisoners, he discovers a humility and a willingness to admit mistakes that was conspicuously lacking in his former colleagues at the House of Commons. Woven into the narrative are thought-provoking reflections on a range of important topics, from the waning of public confidence in MPs and the high-profile termination of his own political career to the failings of the British judicial system. Above all, Prison Diaries reveals what life as a prisoner in Britain is really like, addressing issues such as rising inmate numbers, dehumanising conditions, high incarceration rates, lack of rehabilitation and an endemic political disinterest. This honest and fascinating diary is both a first-hand insight into the current prison system and a report on how it simply does not work.
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