In 2012, radical urbanist Trenton Oldfield, known previously for the critical urban forum This Is Not A Gateway, swam in front of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, protesting the elitism of British culture and society. The race halted briefly and Trenton ended up with a six-month prison sentence, commuted to two months and a tag release in December.
This book documents with intensely personal detail the conversations with inmates and guards, political observations, emotional turbulence and daily unpredictabilities of his time in HMP Womwood Scrubs. It is a fascinating read, rendered without glamour or sensationalism. Trenton is an insightful commentator and not just on the prison system. His diary is accompanied by short essays (Brenna Bhandar's historical analysis on the charge of public nuisance is highly recommended), and an interview with his partner Deepa Naik, the cofounder of This Is Not A Gateway, plus a listing of prison support resources and books. The photo essay and prison paperwork are particularly revealing.
Trenton is not the only person to spend time in jail around a major sporting event in 2012. Journalist Mike Wells spent time on remand before being bailed and then acquitted after filming an Olympic construction site (Leyton Marsh). Protestors grieving the loss of public open space at the same location chose prison over paying a fine after prosecution for obstruction of construction vehicles.
Incarceration is a draconian response to social conflict, the state re-enforcing its monopoly on violence and reimposing a subjugated order. Trenton's protest was non-violent and harmed no one; sentencing was clearly politically inspired. Myrdle Court Press and Trenton Oldfield are to be congratulated on demystifying the prison experience, a much-neglected aspect of urban struggle.