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Prisonomics: Behind bars in Britain's failing prisons [Hardcover]

Vicky Pryce
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 Oct 2013
When economist Vicky Pryce admitted taking speeding points meant for her former husband, the ex-Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, she found herself convicted of perverting the course of justice.After a very public trial she was sent to East Sutton Park prison near Maidstone. There, she kept a diary in which she recorded her very challenging experiences and her strong views on how the prison system works, especially with regard to how it treats women. The result, Prisonomics, will provide a compelling analysis of the cost to the economy, as well as the human cost, of keeping women in prison. In it, she uses her personal experiences and professional understanding to look at how prison works, and should work, from an economist's perspective. Royalties are being donated to Working Chance. Working Chance is a charity (1131802) which changes lives and changes society by finding women ex-offenders work.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Biteback; First Edition edition (14 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849546223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849546225
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 128,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Relentlessly upbeat and uncomplaining... above all, Prisonomics is Vicky Pryce's redemption... one is struck by her mental strength and a talent more common among men than women for compartmentalising emotions. --The Times

Vicky Pryce has done the state some service by writing about her two-month journey through HMP's Holloway and East Sutton Park...Yet for all its personal detachment, this book does not lack fervour...Pryce argues her case capably...(She) convincingly argues the public expenditure case for alternatives to prison for women. Her voice is a welcome support to Jean Corston's cause. --The Observer

[Prisonomics] is a sobering, compelling read that would serve as a blueprint for any politician who wanted to focus seriously on reform… Her observations brought logical conclusions… Her grasp of the facts is startling. --The Guardian

Vicky Pryce […] brings her economic expertise to bear on an issue which rarely gets such rational treatment. --Belfast Telegraph

Laden with economic arguments and analytical comments from inside experts. --Total Politics

It was about time somebody wrote this book, about the economics of keeping women in jail. --Benjamin Zephaniah, Daily Express

Pryce's new book Prisonomics, combines her prison experience and economic expertise in a compelling analysis of the human and financial cost of the prison system. --Jewish News

[Prisonomics] is a sobering, compelling read that would serve as a blueprint for any politician who wanted to focus seriously on reform… Her observations brought logical conclusions… Her grasp of the facts is startling. --The Guardian

About the Author

Vicky Pryce is an economist, and former Joint head of the United Kingdom's government economic service. She is the bestselling author of Greekonomics.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Really poor. Shallow, weak self serving tripe 7 Dec 2013
As an economist myself i am generally interested in learning new elements of the science, hearing them from different perspectives. This book early on says that this is not about Vickys time in prison, its an analysis of the economic & social failings of the prison service. Maybe i am just thick and cant read properly but i gave up after 110 pages with 90% of it being very low level tosh about Vicky and how everyone loves her and actually she's totally innocent, should never have been sent to prison etc etc etc and the remaining 10% just quoting other peoples work in the area, i couldn't find a single new idea or new piece of research. Utter utter drivel.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A superficial, inaccurate analysis 1 Dec 2013
The 'facts' quoted in this book are not nearly robust enough. There are many better anaylses than this, and Ms Pryce's self-serving prison memoir should be convicted of crimes against the English language. Part prison diary, part essay on the state of the British penal system, but primarily a monumental exercise in self-indulgence, the book takes any residual sympathy the reader may have for her, and grinds it into the dust of Holloway prison yard. Any hope of a stimulating reading experience dies at the gates.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If you can't do the time, don't do the crime 3 Jan 2014
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
Do you know the most irritating thing about famous people who are sent to prison? It's the way they write a book about it as though they were the first person ever to go to prison. Or perhaps, as though they were the most observant, sensitive, prescient person ever to go to prison.

Here we have an extended essay in self-interest. Vicky Pryce, in some desperate attempt to prove to herself and others that being in prison was not a complete waste of time, has written a book examining the economics of the penal system and its role in society. Because, of course, having been in prison gives her a unique insight into the system. The staff would, no doubt, have shared their records and accounts with her. The governor would doubtless have discussed recidivism rates over tea and biscuits with her. The inmates would have given honest reflection of the alternative approaches to life that they might have pursued if only the pay off matrices, the marginal curves of utility, etc. had been slightly different.


Vicky Pryce would have gained unique insight into the number of bricks in her cell wall. She would have been able to reflect on the flavour of boiled cabbage. She would have become very good at standing in lines waiting to be frisked. But it is hard to see where her economic insights were going to come from.

No matter, she can write instead about her experiences with the inmates - a group she seems to discuss as though they were a separate and slightly lower species to herself. As to herself, she explains that irrespective of whether people thought her verdict or sentence were fair, she had to abide by the court's ruling. I am pleased she was so magnanimous. She was struck, though, by the senselessness of it all. But this is where her thesis falls apart.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Book That Should Have Remained Behind Bars 27 Nov 2013
By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Anyone interested in our penal system, its manifest problems and proposed improvements should avoid this book by Vicky Price;it is full of banalities,sweeping generalisations and it demonstrates that she has no idea whatsoever of what the inmates are really like or the regime that tries to rehabilitate them. After a pampered stay, mainly in an open prison, she knows as much about prison life and its problems as a tourist in India who stays in a 5 star hotel knows about that country's appalling poverty.

I have to add that as one of my degrees is in Economics, I am aware of the author's writings on economic issues, including a recent and very poor account of the economic problems affecting Greece, and I, like many others, am very unimpressed. Her difficulty in answering two basic questions on her recent appearance on Question Time, questions that would not have tasked an average undergraduate, was also very worrying. The very last thing our flawed penal system needs is an economist pontificating about its ills. The fundamental problem is not,as she would have you believe,about demand and supply, marginal costs, opportunity costs, utility and macro economics. She never tells us in any detail what to do to put things right. Her use of statistics, or rather misuse, is again very worrying. In any case, most of her proposals have long been suggested by other more qualified people. In America, her proposals would be seen as derisory and old-hat. Having had the 'academic literature looked up for her' clearly did not help her. There is no evidence here that she read anything of substance; there is unfortunately much available that is of very poor quality.

The book is full of silly contradictions and flawed logic.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By maaji
While I do not doubt that the prison service does women a great dissservice this is not the right book to help matters. Vicky Pryce gives no suggestion that either herself or the women she befriends have done anything meriting punishment - not is it easy to see life in her open prison as very hard.

Not that I do not agree that most convicted women should not be in prison - but then neither should a great many convicted men.

What I really dislike about this book was how keen she was to tell us how everybody loves her, from the friends who visited her with parcels of goodies to the hundreds who wrote to her to the inmates who devoted themselves to making her comfortable. This amount of self-praise suggests a deep underlying conviction of guilt, and was out of place in a book pleading for reform.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Lacking in credibility.
In order to make an effective review of the prison system, it really does require some real experience or understanding of it, neither of which can be attributed to a quick stay in... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Terry
4.0 out of 5 stars Women in open prisons
An interesting book, well worth purchasing (the money goes to a charity, Working Chance, of which Vicky Pryce is a patron). Read more
Published 1 month ago by L. J. B.
5.0 out of 5 stars believable, well reasoned and important
Vicky Pryce writes about her time in prison with constant awareness that she is not typical. She knew she would have a home to go to on release, family and friends who would stand... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ms. J. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Prisonomics
Really enjoyed reading this book. It can be quite an eyeopener reading what goes on in prisons. Passed onto a friend
Published 5 months ago by Sarkins
3.0 out of 5 stars Its OK
I am not sure if this was self indulgence or Vicky Pryce is really trying to do something about the problem of women behind bars. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Elizabeth Kwantes
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written.
I chose to read this book for many reasons the most important as support for Vicky Price. I found it to be extremely well written and in no way biased toward herself, and it gave... Read more
Published 6 months ago by doodle
4.0 out of 5 stars Vicky Pryce supports reform for female prisoners
Well written dispassionate assessment of the present 'health' of the prison service.
I was surprised and relieved that she did not dwell on her own court case. Read more
Published 6 months ago by DAVID AYLIN
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is a far greater crime than the one for which she was jailed
Imagine how whiney and irritating an account of prison life would flow from the pen of someone who only ended up there because of her spiteful need for revenge. Read more
Published 6 months ago by watcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading
This book will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about women who go to prison. It is full of personal stories - and the economics is spot on too. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Patty Hemingway
4.0 out of 5 stars For my farther in law.
Dad is a prison well fair voluntary officer looking after prisoners and prison officers well being . He takes his position very seriously! Read more
Published 7 months ago by MKW
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