Review of ‘Strangeways Unlocked’ by Neil Samworth

This is the follow-up to Neil’s first book, which was one of the first I reviewed on my blog, back in 2018. A collection of prisoners’ and warders’ experiences mixed in with the author’s commentary, it’s not quite the same kind of format as the first book but has similar content. It’s even more hard-hitting and gritty, if that was possible.

If you want a bold insight into what UK prisons, and particularly Strangeways (HMP Manchester) are like today, then this book is ideal. It’s not pleasant reading and will have you shaking your head in disgust, compassion, disbelief, or all of those. We take a look at the types of people who are sent to prison, think about what prisons are for, how the prison system should be reformed, etc. It’s a book that will leave you with a sense of deep unease but also the hope that it might just influence some decision-makers.

I didn’t find the writing as compelling this time around. I think this was down to the interview style. I would have preferred to have each person’s experience written in their own style, with the author’s commentary saved until the end. A small issue perhaps, but I expected more of a gripping narrative.

To get the most out of this book, you probably need to have read the previous one, which is quite often referred to.

First published in 2022.

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