on 30 April 2007
Finally transferred to an open prison Archer completes 636 remaining days his sentence in a more relaxed regime until he unwittingly breaks the conditions of a home visit. At the insistence of home secretary Blunkett, who seemed to believe tabloid untruths about Archer receiving preferential treatment, he is sent to the harsher regime of Lincoln until after 23 days an enquiry shows the prison service at fault.
Archer is shown to have received a far harsher sentence than is normal or his crime. but supposed friends who could have exposed judicial prejudice against him, refused to testify. One finishes these volumes with a lot of respect for Archer and his ability to endure adversity.
One learns you cannot escape from an open prison, only abscond, and some do even when nearing completion of sentence. Another surprise is the number of murdererd qualifying for open prison. Most will have killed family members and are no longer seen as a threat to others.
on 12 September 2009
This third diary - like the others before - was a definite page turner. The short, sharp entries each day kept my attention and I never knew what was coming next. I have to say that - as someone who visits a Cat C Prison on a regular basis and engages with both Staff and Offenders - Archer has in no way exaggerated the conditions and regulations within our current Penal System.
on 9 October 2006
The last volume of the 'prison diaries' kept me with him the experience and gratification of being in the hospital and trying to help other prisoner showed the more human side of Jeffrey Archer. I like others would have liked a short diary of his confinement in Lincoln Jail. The Home Office and prison system tried to make an example of him, but in the end Jeffrey was able to let others know what he really went through. I have read all his books and look forward to continue reading him.
In the Open Prison at North Sea Camp, Archer fell on his feet straightaway. One of the prisoners who had helped him so much in Wayland had referred him to similarly helpful prisoner at NSC. This prisoner had the best job at NSC - as hospital orderly. Archer will often stand in for him, but right at the start he had got the second-best job, that of orderly in the Sentence Management Unit, which involved helping the officers with office work (ordering supplies, for example) and seeing the prisoners when they are called to the officers, whether in the course of induction (for instance telling them what work options are available to them) or preparatory to them being called in for some offence. This enabled him to be helpful both to the officers (the first thing he did was to reorganizing drawers, cupboards and notice-boards more efficiently) and to the prisoners; so once again he becomes popular and respected by both sides. He writes (can we believe it?) that hardly any prisoner would swear in front of him (though a woman officer has no such inhibitions), and when refereeing a football-match, he actually penalized one of the players for swearing and got away with it. Though it is an open prison, it still has a contingent of murderers and of drug users. On the one occasion when an inmate promised to beat Archer up, the offender was visited by three heavies (whom Archer did not even know that well) who made him change his mind and apologize.
The question of drugs obsesses Archer. He records every aspect and what the prisoners don't tell him, he reads up. There are frequent random Mandatory Drugs Tests (MDTs), and the more resourceful prisoners told him of the many ingenious ways in which they can fool the testing procedure. Even so, many of them do test positive, for which the penalty can be anything from an extra 28 days being added to their sentence to being shipped out straightaway to the closed prisons at Lincoln or Nottingham. Archer understood the difficulties of someone hooked on drugs; but he was amazed at the sheer stupidity of so many prisoners who commit other offences or unsuccessfully abscond, sometimes only weeks or days before they were due for release, which led to similar punishments.
So it is of course ironical that he himself, after a blameless 435 days, is sent to the notorious prison in Lincoln. Archer was unaware that he had broken any restrictions in his license, and it turned out that his license did not actually include the restriction he was accused of having broken. It appears that David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, had been enraged by yet another press report showing that Archer was receiving preferential treatment, and had ordered the Director- General of the Prison Service to take "immediate and decisive disciplinary action". The whole story is one incident among several he recounts of the miscarriages, if not of justice, certainly of equity and common sense, in many of the sentences that are handed down by the courts. Comparing sentences both within in and outside of prison for similar offences shows how arbitrary the process often is.
One of the most disgusting pictures that emerges from these pages is that of our gutter press. Archer did have a relatively easy time in prison, but the press had an agenda to exaggerate this quite unconscionably. An open prison makes it easy for so-called reporters to gain access to prisoners and even officers who do not scruple, for a consideration, to give the press what they want. The reporters smuggled cameras into the prison so that prisoners could take pictures of Archer or of his cell. They even found a look-alike of Archer whom they filmed on the premises "trying to escape". The man in charge of the film crew claimed to be working for the BBC, but that will surely be just one of the lies that such scum will tell and print without the slightest scruples.
Archer spent 23 days "back in Hell" at Lincoln, before the authorities were sufficiently embarrassed to send him to another open prison (Hollelsley) where he spent the remaining 268 days before his release - just over a third of his total time in prison. He chose not to publish a fourth volume of the diaries he presumably kept during that time: if he had, I would have read it straight after the 1,000 plus rivetting pages of the other three volumes. (See also my review of Vols. I and II)
on 19 December 2012
I've just finished this, the last of all three prison diaries, after a marathon week of reading.
In many ways, I like this one the most. The first and the second deal a lot with the machinations of prison life, even to the point of what he is eating daily.
Whereas in the third, there are far many more stories, largely because the prison has such a high turnover, Archer has unlimited tales (many funny) to share.
I was careful to remember that Archer would inevitably, like any author, show some bias. However, there are undeniable miscarriages of justice which shocked me such as prisoners who should not be in prison, mostly. Archer himself is even subject to grossly unfair treatment.
This book is longer than the other two by maybe a third, but it is cut short abruptly at the end. One can't blame the man though.
My takeaway from this book is that, while I'm glad that our prisons are not as bad as some others in the world, you couldn't pay me to stay even one night in one. Also, while there is a lot that works well in the prison system, there is a lot that is wrong and that could easily be fixed but Home Secretaries just turn a blind eye. Prisoners are human beings but we don't accord them all their rights. I do now believe they should have the right to vote, like anyone else.
on 4 November 2015
Having now read the three diaries, I am left feeling increasingly angry at the abuse of power of some in authority. Personally feel it is worse than some of the lower criminal fraternity get up to. I could understand if Archer felt the same after his experiences. I know our system of law is better than a large part of the world, but I thought in U.K. we were more advanced than what I have read in these diaries and also increasingly in the press. I was impressed by Archer's attitudes and how he disciplined himself to cope, also well written. An interesting insight to the lives of those in prison. I don't think some people have much of a chance from the day they were born. My eyes have been opened to a lot in life I didn't sufficiently understand.
on 1 June 2013
The third diary is no less interesting than the previous two but here was a slightly more human approach and the prison authorities emphasized with Archer almost from the first day. It was obvious that the governor and his staff knew that here they had someone that they could use to great advantage to lighten the load of their work. Archer was trusted and I was disappointed by the way he was treated at the very end of his sentence as a result of a total misunderstanding. In spite of that he showed no bitterness.
Jeffrey Archer is to be commended for the way he genuinely wanted to help those prisoners at North Sea Camp who came to him for advice.
Now that I have read all three of these diaries I recommend them to the Home Secretary to read so as to know more about prison life from an honest insider. The one question that remains with me is why it was that the cook at NSC was able to produce eatable meals on the same money as the ones at his previous two prisons had failed to do.
Jeffrey Archer has made, what could have been a boring account an interesting and at times, entertaining read.
on 11 May 2013
I have read all 3 Prison Diaries. It got to me early on in Prison Diary 1 that the daily routine, what he had for breakfast etc., got very repetitive and quite frankly boring.
The book should have ended with more chapters on how Jeffrey adapted to life after prison.
on 10 May 2013
I went to the library and as usual looked along the large print books for something of interest to read. A Prison Diary by Jeffrey Archer. I took the book off the shelf and read the cover and the opening page. I thought I would have a problem reading a book about someone being in prison surely the whole purpose of prison was a denial of ones usual way of life and here we are Jeffrey is writing. I wondered who would benefit from the profits and how the book had been sanctioned. I am glad after dithering I took the book out on loan as it proved a page tuner and I went on the read the second and first book in the series as well. Comparing the description of prison life in the early 1900's in Julian Barnes's Arthur and George and in this book little, apart from drugs, appears to have changed. I will read again sometime.