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Summary

Darkly funny, heartbreakingly poignant and stark in its revelations about the UK's attitude towards people on the fringes of society and women in general, Jailbirds is this year's book you need to listen to.

Did you know that 48 percent of the women in prison have committed an offence in order to support the drug use of someone else? That 46 percent of women in prison report having attempted suicide once in their lifetime? Or that over half of the women in prison have been victims of more serious crimes than the ones they've been convicted of? But this isn't a book about statistics. 

It's a book about the individual stories of women caught up in our creaking and under-resourced prison system. Women who commit crimes in order get a roof over their head, who star in prison pantomimes and who deal drugs with Apprentice-style entrepreneurship. It's about those who won their battles with addiction or mental health, and those that didn't. About those who will never come back to prison, and those for whom it's the only safe space they've ever known.  

Headlines and news reports of prison leave us with a boiled-down narrative of goodies and baddies - violent offenders, neglectful mothers and incurable psychopaths if you read one paper, or cruel officers, the evil establishment and sexist judges if you read another. But, very rarely, just humans. 

When I started working in prisons, part of me expected to find this pantomime cast of characters. Instead I met wonderful, funny, brave and resilient people with complicated stories - on both sides of the bars. Come inside with me and meet them.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Mim Skinner (P)2019 Orion Publishing Group

What listeners say about The Prison Teacher

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Eye-opening insight into women in prison

This is such a powerful book, based on the experiences that Mim Skinner had whilst working in a women’s prison - getting behind the statistics to tell the stories of individual women with humour and dignity. I was moved alternately to laughter and tears. This is a book which has changed the way I think about the prison system and how it needs reform. Read it and have your own preconceptions challenged!

4 people found this helpful

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Fascinating and Informative

Mim provides her account of some entertaining and some extremely sobering stories from her experiences while teaching in a women's prison. Through these she provides a unique and informative insight into the inner workings of the prison and the lives of the women imprisoned there.

While this is just one person's account, she brings attention to a lot of the issues regarding the imprisonment of women and lack of rehabilitation leading to re-offending. As well as the distinct lack of provisions upon release from prison despite this leading to women living on the streets and often deliberately returning to prison for the relative safety.

Overall, this is a well written and thought provoking account with a solid narration despite a rather Welsh impression of a Somerset accent...

3 people found this helpful

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A rare insight into the female prison system

I enjoyed this sometimes naive but interesting look into female prisons, from the fact that there are so many mistakes and waste in a system attempting supposedly rehabilitation. The prison garden, producing amazingly large vegetables that could have given a number of the residents(?) one of their five a day.
We fail both the female and males in our reform from prison. This leaves the reality that we have a self fulfilling prophecies that people will be on a revolving door system which leaves people losing families and stability. Without support on realise the vulnerability of these ladies means they will keep coming in and out until an overdose, alcohol abuse or domestic abuse kills them. They deserve better.
If we treated these people with compassion, dignity and empathy, giving them a stable supported place to be realised to, then and only then we can we expect them to rehabilitate. Right now there is nothing to drive them into a life without fear and an unability to trust.

2 people found this helpful

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Everyone should read this book

Thank you so much to Mim for sharing your experiences through this book. I found it eye opening, funny and heart breaking. I have learnt so much from this book and would encourage everyone to read it.

2 people found this helpful

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Enjoyed but a little slow

I loved the concept of the book and learning about female prisons but found it a little slow in parts where I would zone out. A lot of ‘setting the scene’ information with no stories/actions. But overall enjoyed it

1 person found this helpful

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A topic we don’t like to think about

Mim has written a very human story on a topic we don’t like to think about it. And she has done a great job without the hero’s sounding too much like hero’s or too much like villains. I particularly enjoyed listening to her narrate the book too

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Boring

I found this to be really boring. Not enough detail about the characters and a lack of progression of those featured. Some interesting facts, but not really enough to make me feel like I’d really learned as much as I’d like. The narration felt amateur and perhaps I would feel more positive about the book if presented by a professional.

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Honest but unbalanced

So I enjoyed some of the stories in this book however it constantly critiques prisons and paints the prisoners as sympathetic characters. That’s all well and good however the problem is that there is no balance. Yes a lot of women are in jail because of their upbringing/circumstances but a lot of women have come from the same situations and aren’t in jail. It throws stats at the reader but doesn’t look particularly deep into them. For instance it mentions that only 5% of the prison population is female but never looks at the reason why.

The biggest draw back is that the author is completely corrupt. She breaks rules constantly and is easily manipulated by the prisoners. All her stories appear honest and are enjoyable but it’s hard to get over how naive she can be.

She brings up a lot of issues with the prison system however she never offers viable solutions for these issues.

Overall it’s an enjoyable but frustrating read.

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Such a wonderfully read and written book

I get to review this again now it has changed title! Yay and it is so deserving of excellent reviews. I've listened to it multiple times over and I hear more bits every time. It's read so well, thanks so much for narrating it yourself Mim it adds so much. It really does grab the heart and opens your mind to the different lives out there. This is one of the absolute best prison story books out there. So much love. :)

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There are better prison books but this one's OK

I quite like prison books. They offer a unique insight into that world. This book, however, seemed to offer a cursory glance. The author said her aim was to put names/personalities to prison statistics that we hear about but she fails to do that in my opinion.

The book is really a collection of short stories featuring different prisoners in different situations but as an outsider who teaches creativity classes you see snippets of a happier-clappier side of prison. There's talk of cheeseboards and grapes and people discussing how much they miss avocados as opposed to the nitty gritty that other prison books present.

The jumpy narrative means the prisoners never really form into solid characters that you can relate to. You get snippets and then they're gone. This seems to go against the stated aim of the book.

The author did, to her credit, raise my awareness about just how detrimental a lack of housing for released/paroled prisoners can be. That was a new one to me as I had often assumed they'd have used the homeless services available but I can see why they would struggle to access such services on release and that those services might not admit them.

The author is fairly Christian although it doesn't come across too strongly. You can't help but laugh when she gives a lift to a newly released prisoner to a derelict building with doors hanging open in a rough area and all she does to help her is say the lord's prayer. On the other hand, she did book an ex-prisoner into a Travelodge for a night so she did sometimes provide actual help too.

The author's narration was decent. Not great, not bad.

I would say of you are looking for prison books in the UK with an outside woman's perspective then The Prison Doctor is good. A Bit Of A Stretch is good for a man in the UK prison system's point of view. Haven't yet read any woman in the UK prison system books yet but hope to at some point.