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"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 pantomi "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."


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"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 pantomi "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."

30 review for Jailbirds: Lessons from a Women's Prison

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra-X Off having adventures

    This is a very critical review of a 3 star book, but a 5 star author. The good: Mim Skinner lives what she says. She is a Christian, but never says so and never preaches but lives what she believes. She tries to be non-judgemental and presents the stories of the women she taught art and drama to as stories of people, not criminals. She does what she is allowed to do for aftercare driving girls to their crack houses when they have nowhere else to live and giving them her contact details whilst tr This is a very critical review of a 3 star book, but a 5 star author. The good: Mim Skinner lives what she says. She is a Christian, but never says so and never preaches but lives what she believes. She tries to be non-judgemental and presents the stories of the women she taught art and drama to as stories of people, not criminals. She does what she is allowed to do for aftercare driving girls to their crack houses when they have nowhere else to live and giving them her contact details whilst trying to get them accommodation. When she leaves the prison service, she has a pop-up restaurant that can help employ and get housing for the destitute. The not-quite-so-good: the author's middle class background and her idea of not being judgemental derived from that culture is very obvious, she is judging from her culture. Many times, if not almost all, she says the women committed their offences as the result of abusive boyfriends. All are victims, she says. None are shown as just wanting something for nothing, or selling drugs because it is an easy way to make money. That they don't want the minimum wage jobs isn't even considered. I believe reading the stories, that some of those women knowingly made really bad choices, but they don't necessarily think they are bad, they think getting caught is bad! Because it is part of their culture, and not the authors.(view spoiler)[ I grew up going to school with and having friends from the bottom end of council estates and areas of town that were very low-rent, gypsies too. I went to a village school and then to the nearest town's IQ-tested grammar school so anyone could get in to either. For some people, living in public housing is a way of life. They don't ever consider renting privately or buying (view spoiler)[ and when the children grow up they put their names down for their own housing. It was common where I lived for the girls who were going to get jobs rather than go to college to get pregnant at 16 just as to get their own flat. (hide spoiler)] These are not necessarily poor or bad homes, their parents are hard-working people who want the best for their children but their culture is to live in public housing. The youth culture of some of these estates was that to be cool there was a lot of drug dealing, stealing, joy-riding in cars, shoplifting fancy outfits or to fund them and casual violence like street fighting. To be sure this was mostly boys but there were girls too who were not drawn into it by a boyfriend but wanting to be as cool as the guys. (hide spoiler)] The 1 star bad. The author narrates her own book. She has a monotonous, depressing voice and when imitating others, especially a really lonely and sad old lady prison visitor comes across as extremely patronising. A professional narrator could have brought this audiobook to life. None of this takes away from the fact that this is actually quite a good book. It is a same-but-different view of prison life for women. And quite eye-opening in small ways. A prisoner, now called a resident, once on drugs, in the sex trade because of no alternative way of earning money, abused and having lost her child to the system says, after being in prison (again) for some months that she doesn't want to leave, she has nowhere to go to (and is one of the many who will not be given housing). The author says, "to leave the prison was to feel life falling off the end of the conveyor belt of support cut off suddenly from the people and programs the residents had been working with." You can feel how frustrated she is when she says, "the idea that the best life we could give a person was being locked up on a wing" was heart-breaking. But for those without support systems, they will find their criminal record a bar to good jobs, credit cards, perhaps even getting their children back. They will have to find a new crowd of friends that will welcome them despite it, as going back to the old crowd, perhaps the only people who will house them, is to fall back into drugs and crime because then to pay the rent and buy food there isn't any choice. That is society's problem and if we don't solve it by upping the aftercare to more than leaving people in the carpark outside the prison with a few quid in their pocket and the promise of sheltered housing 'when it becomes available', then we are to blame, not abusive boyfriends, or a bad crowd, but we knew what to do to try and help and just said goodbye and good luck and forgot about them. Mim Skinner doesn't do that. She helps. So the book varies in parts from 1-4 star, but the author is a 5-star human being.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. In the U.K., 5% of all prisoners are female. That’s over 4,000 women. Of these, 46% of them have experienced some form of domestic and/or sexual violence, and around 53% suffered from sexual, emotional or physical abuse in their childhood*. So why do we know so little about them? In a climate hot on feminism, women’s rights and empowering women, why are our most vulnerable seemingly left to fend for themselves, with decreasing fund I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. In the U.K., 5% of all prisoners are female. That’s over 4,000 women. Of these, 46% of them have experienced some form of domestic and/or sexual violence, and around 53% suffered from sexual, emotional or physical abuse in their childhood*. So why do we know so little about them? In a climate hot on feminism, women’s rights and empowering women, why are our most vulnerable seemingly left to fend for themselves, with decreasing funding and support, in a prison system that does nothing to stop the cycle of reoffending? They’re the forgotten women of our society. Mim Skinner has done wonders here in exposing what life is really like for these women behind bars. Far from tarring everyone with the same brush, she seeks to show these women for what they are - resilient, forgiving and often the victim of a childhood that no one would wish for. The book is scattered with various accounts from different women about their time inside and what happens after, as well as stories from Mim’s own time working with them as a prison art teacher. There’s some wonderful stories of solidarity here, from the play that almost wasn’t, and the time she smuggled some giant veg out of the prison, as well as the many imaginative uses for tampons. Mim does an excellent job of really bringing to life these many colourful, brave and brilliant women. I admit that, probably like most of society, I held an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach towards them, but I honestly can not recommend this book enough in bringing the needs of these women to my attention, and making the campaign for women’s services more visible. Mim has a passionate voice, and a strong conviction that feels very honest and open within the pages of her book. I also have a sneaky suspicion, that although not openly mentioned within her book, that the prison she worked within is my local one. It just made the women more ‘real’ to me, to realise that they’re within my own community. Highly recommend to everyone. Don’t let these women stay hidden. *figures taken from womeninprison.org.uk

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    We frequently see and hear the media vilifying prison inmates for their actions, but what they fail to do is dig deeper into the stories of these convicts. Prison teacher Mim Skinner has produced a magnificent book in which she tells the stories of female inmates' experiences and backgrounds with a crucial non-judgemental tone. It makes for fascinating but often sad and poignant reading, however, the humour throughout is injected into the narrative in all the right places in an effort to provide We frequently see and hear the media vilifying prison inmates for their actions, but what they fail to do is dig deeper into the stories of these convicts. Prison teacher Mim Skinner has produced a magnificent book in which she tells the stories of female inmates' experiences and backgrounds with a crucial non-judgemental tone. It makes for fascinating but often sad and poignant reading, however, the humour throughout is injected into the narrative in all the right places in an effort to provide a balance between the light and shade. Skinner shows that many female inmates are there merely for finding a way to survive, eat, have shelter, warmth and have their basic human needs met. The old outdated beliefs that someone is either good or bad are refuted here as we read through the individual cases you will see that it is simply not as black and white as some make it out to be. It is the only book to be published about a UK women's prison and it's a powerful, accessible and thoroughly eye-opening work which provides plenty of food for thought, and Ms Skinner treats these women with warmth and understanding. This is a book that shines a light on the complexities surrounding working and living in a women's prison. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these women. Many thanks to Seven Dials for an ARC.

  4. 5 out of 5

    ~Bookishly~

    This book was poorly written, and that is why I have given it a low rating. From the view of a prison officer, I was expecting descriptions of what life was like for the women in the prison, their thoughts and their struggles. Instead, I received odd lists of "prison slang", pointless letters that meant nothing to me and which also added no insight to prison life, and at no point in this book did I feel any sympathy for these women, but I honestly put that down to the horribly executed layout of This book was poorly written, and that is why I have given it a low rating. From the view of a prison officer, I was expecting descriptions of what life was like for the women in the prison, their thoughts and their struggles. Instead, I received odd lists of "prison slang", pointless letters that meant nothing to me and which also added no insight to prison life, and at no point in this book did I feel any sympathy for these women, but I honestly put that down to the horribly executed layout of this truly forgettable book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alice (Married To Books)

    Purchased for 99p on a Kobo daily deal! Really enjoyed this collection by the author Mim Skinner. She goes into women's prisons to run creative workshops for the inmates there and always meets new people. Lots of interesting facts and figures thanks to some helpful facts and glossaries included throughout. Both humorous and sometimes tough to read, I do recommend this for non-fiction readers! Purchased for 99p on a Kobo daily deal! Really enjoyed this collection by the author Mim Skinner. She goes into women's prisons to run creative workshops for the inmates there and always meets new people. Lots of interesting facts and figures thanks to some helpful facts and glossaries included throughout. Both humorous and sometimes tough to read, I do recommend this for non-fiction readers!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    A intimate look at what goes on behind the gates of a woman’s prison, authored by a prison creative arts teacher. I enjoyed reading about the women the author met and taught, but wished their stories were explored further. The format of the book was also a little old; there was glossaries dotted throughout, along with transcripts of conversations and facts and statistics. I would have preferred this all to be condensed towards the end of the book, once the woman’s stories were told. The author ra A intimate look at what goes on behind the gates of a woman’s prison, authored by a prison creative arts teacher. I enjoyed reading about the women the author met and taught, but wished their stories were explored further. The format of the book was also a little old; there was glossaries dotted throughout, along with transcripts of conversations and facts and statistics. I would have preferred this all to be condensed towards the end of the book, once the woman’s stories were told. The author raises important issues, albeit briefly, about the disproportionate amount of women in prisons in the UK who have been affected by abuse. She also goes on to say that the prison system does not work for women, but offers little analysis on why. There are a few funny moments in this book, which make it readable, although not on par with other similar books. Worthwhile for criminal justice or law students, the general population will perhaps find this too wishy-washy to feel passionate about.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Wingfield

    This was a fascinating look inside an English women's prison from the POV of someone who worked in one (in an art/writing teaching role). Mim Skinner made an effort to include the voices of women who were in prison too - a choice which should be so automatic as to not need to be praised, but here we are. It takes a look at the reality of prison and the circumstances and choices (choices made within societal structures that are highly disadvantageous to many women) that lead women to it, and how This was a fascinating look inside an English women's prison from the POV of someone who worked in one (in an art/writing teaching role). Mim Skinner made an effort to include the voices of women who were in prison too - a choice which should be so automatic as to not need to be praised, but here we are. It takes a look at the reality of prison and the circumstances and choices (choices made within societal structures that are highly disadvantageous to many women) that lead women to it, and how for some women it represents a place of safety compared to life on the outside. It's a tough read, but these are tales that should be told. I enjoyed Mim Skinner's writing style for the most part although some of the personal details she dropped in were superfluous and seemed designed to tell us what a great person she was, which was a tad annoying. It's also worth noting that she only worked in this arena for a short time (a couple of years IIRC) before writing this, which takes a little from its credibility - given the choice I would prefer to hear/read a more experienced perspective. However I recommend this to anyone with an interest in social issues.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Claire O'Sullivan

    A must read for anyone who is thinking of or works in a prison. Informative and thought provoking without the overwhelming grim reality.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Molly Anning

    A special and rare lens into the realities of a women's prison in England. I felt particularly fired up after this read. Skinner's experience teethes out exactly why incarceration and a punitive criminal justice system, is simply ineffective - particularly in the case of women. "Prison just doesn't work for women: 48 per cent of women leaving prison are back within a year." "The charity Women in Prison found that 79 per cent of the women they work with a victims of domestic violence... These stat A special and rare lens into the realities of a women's prison in England. I felt particularly fired up after this read. Skinner's experience teethes out exactly why incarceration and a punitive criminal justice system, is simply ineffective - particularly in the case of women. "Prison just doesn't work for women: 48 per cent of women leaving prison are back within a year." "The charity Women in Prison found that 79 per cent of the women they work with a victims of domestic violence... These statistics paint a sad picture, where women in prison tend to be victims of more significant crimes than those they have been convicted of." Harrowing statistics alongside personal tales, make this read an urgent wake up call. Be prepared to inquire into your own attitudes toward criminalisation and victimisation.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lorin✨

    I think the reason this was only a 3 star for me was because I wanted it to go further than it did. I wanted it to go into the sociology and psychology of prisons and the prison industrial complex, but it stayed safely in the experiences of the author working in prisons in the UK. It was definitely well written, but there is an aspect to it that didn't sit well with me. I'm not sure it was opportunistic or exploitative, because there were collaborative parts of this, but something about it didn' I think the reason this was only a 3 star for me was because I wanted it to go further than it did. I wanted it to go into the sociology and psychology of prisons and the prison industrial complex, but it stayed safely in the experiences of the author working in prisons in the UK. It was definitely well written, but there is an aspect to it that didn't sit well with me. I'm not sure it was opportunistic or exploitative, because there were collaborative parts of this, but something about it didn't work for me. I think the author tried to do an Adam Kay, by putting 'funny' anecdotes in the book, but with the topic of trauma from incarcerated women made it a difficult pill to swallow for the wrong reasons. If you're looking for an introduction to this topic, I think this would work for you, but I wanted something deeper.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I had hoped this book would humanize convicts and prisoners, sharing their histories and examples of how a flawed system sets poor women up for continued failure. At 30% in, except for one poignant sentence in the introduction, there isn't a hint of any of this. Skinner recounts the prison routine and vocabulary without incorporating the stories of these women before they were incarcerated. I can only surmise that's because they didn't trust her with it. As a prison employee, she's part of the s I had hoped this book would humanize convicts and prisoners, sharing their histories and examples of how a flawed system sets poor women up for continued failure. At 30% in, except for one poignant sentence in the introduction, there isn't a hint of any of this. Skinner recounts the prison routine and vocabulary without incorporating the stories of these women before they were incarcerated. I can only surmise that's because they didn't trust her with it. As a prison employee, she's part of the system to them and considered an outsider. Quite frankly, nothing in the women's attitudes made me feel any sympathy for them. The author recounts pointless anecdotes that do nothing to humanize these women. DNF @ 30%

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mortisha Cassavetes

    This book is about the life inside a woman's prison in the UK. It goes into the terminology used, their lifestyle, rules and what is it like being on the inside as well as being on the out. It covers two differing perspectives of being a staff member and a prisoner. I really enjoyed all the tips and tricks given if you are ever in jail. I highly recommend it. This book is about the life inside a woman's prison in the UK. It goes into the terminology used, their lifestyle, rules and what is it like being on the inside as well as being on the out. It covers two differing perspectives of being a staff member and a prisoner. I really enjoyed all the tips and tricks given if you are ever in jail. I highly recommend it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rachael Smith

    The best book I’ve read this year. Gripping, compelling and deeply harrowing. You simply don’t want to believe it is true and then want to make sure it doesn’t remain true

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Fantastic. For a book with a serious message it was such an easy and enjoyable read. Definitely left me wanting to learn more

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lia

    This was a nice little book and a decent insight into a women's prison/day-to-day life for its' residents. I felt however, it was lacking something for me to sink my teeth into. The anecdotes about women were realistic and sad but didn't hit hard enough. I am already in favour of prison reform, but if I wasn't I don't feel my mind would have been changed particularly. Worth a read, but lacking a radical spark. This was a nice little book and a decent insight into a women's prison/day-to-day life for its' residents. I felt however, it was lacking something for me to sink my teeth into. The anecdotes about women were realistic and sad but didn't hit hard enough. I am already in favour of prison reform, but if I wasn't I don't feel my mind would have been changed particularly. Worth a read, but lacking a radical spark.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie Hull

    An easy and good read, a bit jokes that I spent £15 on the hardback but treat urself :ppp women in prison is something that is NEVER talked about and I loved hearing stories from such a taboo place.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy Linklater

    For Jack Fawdon: this book was really good, how's that's for a written review x For Jack Fawdon: this book was really good, how's that's for a written review x

  18. 5 out of 5

    Justanotherpageturner

    JAILBIRDS: an honest, must-read that celebrates women from all walks of life. With 5% of the UK prison population being female, prison teacher Mim Skinner tackles the topic head-on and in an informative and caring way. I loved that whilst the book clearly highlights pitfalls within the system- something that needs to be brought to light- that the book was largely centered around the incredible women that Mim encountered and whom she cared for and invested her time into helping. For me this was as JAILBIRDS: an honest, must-read that celebrates women from all walks of life. With 5% of the UK prison population being female, prison teacher Mim Skinner tackles the topic head-on and in an informative and caring way. I loved that whilst the book clearly highlights pitfalls within the system- something that needs to be brought to light- that the book was largely centered around the incredible women that Mim encountered and whom she cared for and invested her time into helping. For me this was as important, if not more so, as Mim humanises these women who are largely judged and belittled by the public and vilified by the media with little knowledge or understanding of the bigger picture. Within the pages, Mim actively seeks to provide a narrative for the women she speaks so fondly of in a bid for readers to better understand reality of life for these women and how they end up in such circumstances. Rightly so, she recognises the contributing factors that are interwoven into the women’s journeys- she doesn't in any way condone that these women have broken the law but actively seeks to further understand and support the women to help them reform and to provide opportunity for change. As she so eloquently puts it ‘We need to change the narrative...[the] stories would say that we the onlooker, are simply good and those in prison are simply bad. [The] narratives comfort us by making us believe that crime happens because there are bad people, rather than making us reflect on the structural inequalities that mean women in prison are statistically those who have drawn a bad ticket in life’s lottery.’ By bringing to light the poor support systems and noting how a large proportion of women are released homeless and with no accommodation organised for them it is a stark reminder or how we as a country are furthering the problem. Not content with leaving it their, Mim intersperses the chapters with stories of hilarity including the many uses of tampons, biscuit gate and smuggling giant veg as well as stories from her experiences, and from the women themselves. A wonderful, if somewhat heartbreakingly poignant read that showcases Mim’s devotion to prison reform, encourages reflection on a system that has many problems and ultimately highlights an underlying thread of hope. A must-read that I highly recommend to all! 5 stars

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Ward

    cn: abuse (including child abuse and sexual abuse), suicide, MH a really lovely, informal, personal book offering very valuable insights into life working inside prison. I really enjoyed the format of stories and anecdotes interspersed with shorter sections about prison acronyms, procedures, etc. extremely sobering and moving, as well as funny, it really achieved the humanisation of prison subjects (which I assume was the aim of the writer). I was moved to tears at several of the stories. it also cn: abuse (including child abuse and sexual abuse), suicide, MH a really lovely, informal, personal book offering very valuable insights into life working inside prison. I really enjoyed the format of stories and anecdotes interspersed with shorter sections about prison acronyms, procedures, etc. extremely sobering and moving, as well as funny, it really achieved the humanisation of prison subjects (which I assume was the aim of the writer). I was moved to tears at several of the stories. it also offered gentle yet firm suggestion that the system isn’t working and imprisonment is not the answer to crime — I would have liked this to have been gone into in a lot more detail as it felt a bit of a shame that the opportunity to strongly critique the carceral system wasn’t taken. the author’s christianity also muddied the moral picture at points — I worry that it could read as though she is advocating against imprisonment because of her personal faith rather than because of systematic failings it represents. I also do worry about the ethics of presenting these stories in this way / of my tears at these stories. it is made clear that this is something the author is concerned by, but again I would have liked to see this gone into in more detail / examined more — i.e. how / why / can we write about individuals in prisons without it feeling exploitative, how can we receive these stories without it feeling like ‘trauma porn’ or similar. also there is a total lack of focus on race — again something the author acknowledges, but just feels remiss in a book about prisons. all in all a good and very readable account of the realities inside a woman’s prison, but for me it was much too light on the political aspects of prisons / imprisonment / gender and race in these contexts.

  20. 4 out of 5

    L A

    Thanks to Seven Dials and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. Although I am not teaching the subject currently, I started my teaching career as a Modern Studies teacher. By far my favourite topic to teach was Crime and the Law and I always found that resources and information relating specifically to women's incarceration were thin on the ground. If only I'd had this book available then. Stats are one thing, but real stories and perspectives are invaluable. I h Thanks to Seven Dials and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. Although I am not teaching the subject currently, I started my teaching career as a Modern Studies teacher. By far my favourite topic to teach was Crime and the Law and I always found that resources and information relating specifically to women's incarceration were thin on the ground. If only I'd had this book available then. Stats are one thing, but real stories and perspectives are invaluable. I have moved on from Modern Studies teaching, but I'll be sure to recommend this book to the Modern Studies teachers in my school. In this book, Mim Skinner, an Art teacher relates her experiences and reflections on working within the context of a women's prison. Interspersed amongst her personal anecdotes are statistics and facts about the realities of female incarceration in the UK today. Skinner has a no-nonsense approach to the subject but her writing style remains warm and engaging and it's clear she genuinely cared about the women she worked with. The book offers a fascinating insight without ever descending into mawkishness. There is humour and warmth, but also sadness and frustration. There were times I laughed out loud but there were also times I gritted my teeth in despair. I really enjoyed this fascinating insight into the experiences of working in a woman's prison. Interspersed with facts, personal reflections and humour it was an enlightening and thought provoking read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    As an ex-prisoners wife I take a great interest in reading about prisons & the criminal justice system. There seems to be a lot of books coming out now from Prison Officers, Retired Governors etc and they just seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. Telling stories that will shock and writing what readers expect to read. Mim Skinner is certainly not in that category! Jailbirds is written from the heart, with real feeling and honesty. She really cares about prison reform and mixes stark statistics w As an ex-prisoners wife I take a great interest in reading about prisons & the criminal justice system. There seems to be a lot of books coming out now from Prison Officers, Retired Governors etc and they just seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. Telling stories that will shock and writing what readers expect to read. Mim Skinner is certainly not in that category! Jailbirds is written from the heart, with real feeling and honesty. She really cares about prison reform and mixes stark statistics with genuine knowledge & real life experience. Jailbirds will hopefully leave you thinking about the real women behind those prison gates, the mothers, daughters, sisters who are more than just a prison number. Not everyone in prison is an evil monster or a danger to society. Every single person in prison (just over 82000 at this precise moment in the UK) has a story, and it’s people like Mim who give them a voice. Jailbirds is not an easy or fun read, but then how could it be? It is however, a wonderful insight into women in prison. Heartbreaking at times but she balances it with real kindness and lots of humour. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It really is fantastic. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me pleasure of reading this little gem. Also thank you to Mim Skinner for the book and all your amazing work

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ruby Topping

    This collection of stories (which it definitely is, rather than a critique of the prison system) was in turns horrifying, illuminating, hilarious, and distinctly northern. As a working class person and former sex worker I found, in literature: diverse feminisms that I could relate to, pride in small-scale success, people who look and sound like I do, alongside lives that I could never imagine. These are the tales of twenty or so people at what is possibly (but not necessarily) the worst time in This collection of stories (which it definitely is, rather than a critique of the prison system) was in turns horrifying, illuminating, hilarious, and distinctly northern. As a working class person and former sex worker I found, in literature: diverse feminisms that I could relate to, pride in small-scale success, people who look and sound like I do, alongside lives that I could never imagine. These are the tales of twenty or so people at what is possibly (but not necessarily) the worst time in their lives. The stories in this book are as diverse as people. I can barely even remember everything that happened, and- as I imagine a day in prison might- the book flew by in an intense, frenetic blur. It really can't be summarised easily. Similarly, if I have one wish, it's that Skinner's voice would be a little less present. Often after recounting someone's life history at length, she would end a chapter with some writerly conclusions. These were presumably intended to be pithy, but mostly fell flat or were downright insensitive. The book's downfall for me was the structural decision to frame these bookish one-liners as the important conclusions. After all, this is a work whose main strength is finally platforming the nuanced voices of those who are so often, to most of us, reduced to headlines. It's a shame it didn't go all the way. Five stars nonetheless.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I bought this book on a whim after it was 99p on Kindle, and I always enjoy reading non-fiction books around these sorts of topics and wondering how it's going to be handled. This book did not disappoint. Mim is a really good author who manages to weave together real life examples of her experiences in women's prisons; her frustrations at the system, her joy at seeing the women power on, and facts and figures of the lives of the women in prison. This book manages to be both informative through fa I bought this book on a whim after it was 99p on Kindle, and I always enjoy reading non-fiction books around these sorts of topics and wondering how it's going to be handled. This book did not disappoint. Mim is a really good author who manages to weave together real life examples of her experiences in women's prisons; her frustrations at the system, her joy at seeing the women power on, and facts and figures of the lives of the women in prison. This book manages to be both informative through facts and statistics, but is deeply caring and makes you connect to the women that Mim has met in prison. It definitely made me tear up and your heart goes out to these women who are stuck in a horrific cycle of abuse and lack of support; how can we expect them to do better when we don't give them any help to do so? It's an easy read and one I couldn't put down. It definitely skims the surface of what could be an in-depth look at each of the issues Mim raises in her book, but that was the point of the book; to give an overall view rather than an in-depth exploration of one or two issues. I would definitely be interested to read more if she ever wrote it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michelle B

    Mim Skinner has written an amazing book which I just wish I could get all the people who believe that ‘prison is a holiday camp’ and that ‘all people in prison are bad/ evil’ to read. The book sets out Mim’s experiences as an art teacher in a women’s prison. She details what she saw and some of the women’s stories (mainly anonymised). Mim has great respect for the officers who work in the system and is not blind to the faults of some of the women in the prison. The book makes one question whethe Mim Skinner has written an amazing book which I just wish I could get all the people who believe that ‘prison is a holiday camp’ and that ‘all people in prison are bad/ evil’ to read. The book sets out Mim’s experiences as an art teacher in a women’s prison. She details what she saw and some of the women’s stories (mainly anonymised). Mim has great respect for the officers who work in the system and is not blind to the faults of some of the women in the prison. The book makes one question whether there is a different way to deal with women who have committed certain offences which lead to say serving six months in prison (Mim details this will lead to them losing their tenancy, may lead to their children being placed in care, but won’t qualify for any treatment whilst inside or any real help upon release). A very thought provoking, interesting and insightful read. Thanks to NetGalley for a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid A.

    Jailbirds is both heart-breaking and hilarious, both hopeful and infuriating. It presents what is a bleak system in desperate need for reform, but does through stories of people, lives, and situations that also show the human side of what is often offered as mere numbers. I learnt a lot from reading the book, not least of the daily challenges of life inside the prison and how wrong many of my own presumptions were. Mim Skinner writes beautifully and intimately personally about her work in traini Jailbirds is both heart-breaking and hilarious, both hopeful and infuriating. It presents what is a bleak system in desperate need for reform, but does through stories of people, lives, and situations that also show the human side of what is often offered as mere numbers. I learnt a lot from reading the book, not least of the daily challenges of life inside the prison and how wrong many of my own presumptions were. Mim Skinner writes beautifully and intimately personally about her work in training inside, but does so in ways that always highlights residents' voices. This is a book that I cannot recommend enough; I wish policy-makers would read it to see how easily lives could be improved and even saved, both inside and outside the prison walls, by implementing much-needed changes. However, until that change happens, we should all read this book, challenge stereotypes, and support the crucial work of people like Mim Skinner.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ru

    This is such an important book. It’s both heart-breaking and heart-warming; perfectly balancing hilarious stories from inside the prison with thoughtful reflections on the problems with the system and how it fails not only the women inside, but society as a whole. Skinner retells incredibly funny anecdotes from the time she tried to put on a panto to when she smuggled a massive leek out of the prison grounds. She also however reveals the pressures that are experienced by everyone in the prison, f This is such an important book. It’s both heart-breaking and heart-warming; perfectly balancing hilarious stories from inside the prison with thoughtful reflections on the problems with the system and how it fails not only the women inside, but society as a whole. Skinner retells incredibly funny anecdotes from the time she tried to put on a panto to when she smuggled a massive leek out of the prison grounds. She also however reveals the pressures that are experienced by everyone in the prison, from the women struggling with addictions and mental health problems to the difficulties faced by staff who often only want to try and help. Jailbirds is a glimpse into part of British society that is too often set aside, seen as separate from the ‘normal’ person’s day-to-day. Skinner shows that this is misguided and, after reading this, you’ll want to know more about it too.

  27. 5 out of 5

    LittleRedLibrary

    Mim Skinner’s Jailbirds is a book that has been on my TBR since it was released. For some reason I had been putting off Mim’s book as I was expecting something very heavy on facts, educational but tough in terms of readability. I was completely wrong. This book is incredible. I smiled, I had a little cry at a couple of points and I loved every minute of it. Mim tells her story of teaching in a women’s prison with such heart and empathy for the women that you won’t want to stop reading. At the same Mim Skinner’s Jailbirds is a book that has been on my TBR since it was released. For some reason I had been putting off Mim’s book as I was expecting something very heavy on facts, educational but tough in terms of readability. I was completely wrong. This book is incredible. I smiled, I had a little cry at a couple of points and I loved every minute of it. Mim tells her story of teaching in a women’s prison with such heart and empathy for the women that you won’t want to stop reading. At the same time, she speaks of reform, about how these are issues society largely ignores and how prison is rarely an effective way of rehabilitating women in a clear and convincing way. I loved this. I will read it again. I recommend that you read it too.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Molly O'Connor

    As someone who has worked closely with those who are incarcerated and continues to work within the justice system, I’m often frustrated by depictions of prison. Too often popular media try to paint matters pertaining to crime, abuse, addiction and mental illness as being black and white, when all too often prisoners and those who work with them are operating firmly in grey areas. However, I’m delighted to say that Skinner has managed to capture the full complexity of the lives that female prison As someone who has worked closely with those who are incarcerated and continues to work within the justice system, I’m often frustrated by depictions of prison. Too often popular media try to paint matters pertaining to crime, abuse, addiction and mental illness as being black and white, when all too often prisoners and those who work with them are operating firmly in grey areas. However, I’m delighted to say that Skinner has managed to capture the full complexity of the lives that female prisoners so often lead by taking the radical step of actually listening to their stories. This book was funny, heart-breaking and full of wisdom and I’d recommend this to anyone looking to better understand prison policy and especially the complications that come with imprisoning women.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    A very informative look on female prisoners within the UK filled with stats, stories and some humour. Overall, I thought this gave a good insight into life behind bars for the 4,000 female inmates across the UK. I learned a lot about the different formalities and a typical day in the life in prison. There are one or two tales that will stay with me - particularly Paige’s. It also challenged me to think about how I view prisoners and the vicious cycle they can find themselves in if they don’t get A very informative look on female prisoners within the UK filled with stats, stories and some humour. Overall, I thought this gave a good insight into life behind bars for the 4,000 female inmates across the UK. I learned a lot about the different formalities and a typical day in the life in prison. There are one or two tales that will stay with me - particularly Paige’s. It also challenged me to think about how I view prisoners and the vicious cycle they can find themselves in if they don’t get a second chance. Thought provoking, bleak but sprinkled with humour, JailBirds is my favourite non-fiction book of 2019 so far.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Harte

    The world needs literature from caring, committed and decent people. We are bombarded by intolerance and a lack of understanding at the moment.This book humanizes the prison system and gives voice to the women, many of whom have been the victims of much more serious crimes than those for which they have been incarcerated. Crime does not happen in a vacuum and this book explains the reasons and how prison works for the women inside. A very compassionate account of the reality of prison life. Of c The world needs literature from caring, committed and decent people. We are bombarded by intolerance and a lack of understanding at the moment.This book humanizes the prison system and gives voice to the women, many of whom have been the victims of much more serious crimes than those for which they have been incarcerated. Crime does not happen in a vacuum and this book explains the reasons and how prison works for the women inside. A very compassionate account of the reality of prison life. Of course you will have those who will say they deserve their fate but even if you don’t agree with everything in this book at least try and understand the issues.

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