Book review | Diary of a Prison Officer by Josie Channer
Author: Josie Channer
Genre: Literary fiction
No. of pages: 232
Published by: New Generation Publishing
My rating: ★★★★★
It’s 2003, Tony Blair is still Prime Minister and a shy loner from east London, Amber Campbell, joins the prison service searching for purpose.
Behind the walls of the women’s prison Amber is determined to prove that she has what it takes to become a tornado officer. She makes a pact with two close friends to support each other no matter what. However, the three Black women struggle when they experience discrimination and disappointment at every turn.
There is rising racial tension in her home town when far right local councillors are elected. Amber reflects on the prison system in her blog and takes an emotional journey off the beaten track through Africa to find love.
Written in a diary entry format, Josie Channer's Diary of a Prison Officer, is hands down one of the most eye-opening books I've read in 2020.
As Amber Campbell, goes on a cross-country trip across Africa in search of her Jamaica roots, she reminisces her time as a young and aspiring prison officer in London's Holloway by reading her diaries. Little did she know about the trials and tribunals she would have to face to become a riot officer in spite of her rigorous training camps and her talents.
As the book goes back and forth in the past, Josie Channer deconstructs Amber's struggles in the prison facility. First, the outright racism that both the prisoners and the officers had to face. From the presence of institutional racism that prevented Amber and the other POC officials from getting promoted to being mistreated by the prisoners themselves just because of their skin colour. It also showed how the white officers were being mean and racist, but brushed those insults off in the name of 'jokes'. The microaggression shown in the book no doubt brings out the sad reality that exists in workplaces as well.
Secondly, Josie Channer also brings in the necessity of mental health advocacy in prisons. Through many small but vital incidents in the story, she throws light upon how policemen and prison officers have not been trained at all to handle prisoners with mental health issues. Even our protagonist Amber being a dyslexic prison officer needed to fight against discrimination for her rights.
Third, I really love how the author shows women friendship and how Amber and her two closest friends in the prison bond and are each other's support. The book gives importance to not just racism or mental illness, but also gives us a glimpse on how prison facilities usually work. The riots, the fights, and the attempts to self-harm amongst prisoners, to the whole prison system.
While Amber travels across the different African countries, she comes to realize that racial segregation still exists very much. We get a historical perspective through this book, about the apartheid and what followed it.
Not only was the book informational, it was inspirational as well. As Amber travels, she keeps referring to her first love. It too me a long time to realize that she was referring to her job. She dedication towards her job and her friends, and her ability to stand up for what's right and confront the higher officers whenever she felt that she was being wronged, is inspirational.
Diary of a Prison Officer is a wholesome educational book and I could have gone on and on about this book but I need you guys to read and support this underrated gem.
I received a copy of the book in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.