Tales of bravery and stupidity. Memories of better days.Recollections of being arrested and imprisoned. Poems of love and reflection. Honest, poignant and hugely powerful.

“Prison strips you of everything while absorbing you into itself, leaving nothing of the person you were before – at which point it will be a full stop or a first step on a path to who you will be …”

Funded by the Lankelly Chase Foundation, produced by Durham City Arts, gathered and edited by Richard W Hardwick, this book is an outcome and celebration of work produced by prisoners over a two year period. Prisoners participated in a range of creative writing focused projects that helped give them a voice and a platform to be heard in wider society.

Inside, lie tales of bravery and stupidity, memories of better days, recollections of being arrested and imprisoned, poems of love and reflection, prose that strips the reader of all that is unnecessary and helps them realise and appreciate the most important things in life.

Honest, poignant and also hugely powerful, this book reveals the creative and thoughtful side of a section of people often only referred to in terms of offence. And yet, this book is about far more than prisoners and prison life; it is about people, and the terrible and wonderful paths they often find themselves on.

 

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Razor Wire

Every window I look out from, I see nothing but razor wire. Coils of it sitting up high above every fence, every wall.

Sometimes ragged pieces of clothing hang flapping in the wind. Pigeons look for food thrown out of windows by inmates, until the crows come and scare them away. The lay of the land, survival of the fittest. Some of the pigeons look sad, some missing a foot, bald patches in their feathers. Who really are the survivors in life, I wonder…

That’s where the saying comes from.

Plenty of bird and bars, not the kind I would like. The saying ‘doing bird,’ ‘doing sparrow,’ relates to birds in cages. Some prisons, lifer jails, allow prisoners to keep budgerigars as pets, companions in their cells. Home Office legislation is now putting a stop to it, as prisoners who own budgerigars cause problems for the prison service when being transferred to other establishments.

A man convicted of murder can show love and care looking after one of God’s small creatures. Even the hardest of men have a heart. It’s just finding it. But prison does not encourage finding the heart. It destroys it. Binds it with coils of razor wire so tight it chokes the meaning of life from it.

One day I hope to see from my window a clear view, not obscured by fences and walls laced with razor wire. Maybe a little knee-high picket fence. Beyond that fields, trees and blue sky. Animals grazing. And hopefully my grandchildren, playing with my son, who will be a man. The pigeons won’t be the scrawny little survivors. They will be big overfed wood pigeons and collared doves. The clothes flapping in the wind will be washing on the line. I will see my wife folding the clothes and putting them in a basket. The smell of fear, hate and desperation will be gone, replaced by certainty, love and happiness. That’s my window; the window locked within my mind. A prisoner, never knowing the day of his release; doing time, doing bird, doing sparrow.

Mitch

 

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Suppressed

 If there’s one thing she knew, it’s that she knew nothing at all

For she could not see repressed love in his saddened eyes

Integrity could not rise passion in a sleeping heart.

If there’s one thing he knew it’s that he knew nothing at all

Mistook pain for anger, insecurity for scorn

A decade past, a new day is born

The prickly rose has lost her thorns.

And there’s one thing they know now,

It’s that they know nothing at all

Sam

 

There are a limited number of copies of Shattered Images and Building Bridges available for £10

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