As one more National lockdown came to an end and another tough Tier system came into force it seemed pertinent to read this book, The Prison Doctor: Women Inside by Dr. Amanda Brown (published by Harper Collins).
Dr Amanda Brown decided to exchange her demanding but comfortable village surgery life for the stressful world of Female Prisons. She has worked in a teenage detention centre, Wormwood Scrubs and since 2016 she has been working in the largest women’s prison in Europe, Bronzefield.
In this her second book of prison work, the first being The Prison Doctor, Amanda focuses on whether prison is the right place for women with mental health issues.
The book focuses on case studies of the women who come as patients to see Amanda. It might be that she sees 15 new inmates in a 5 hour session. Most are drug addicts brought about by loveless and violent childhoods and now abusive relationships.
“Linda”, a woman in her 50s, has an appointment with Amanda Brown, a prison doctor at HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, Surrey, since 2016. Linda is inside because she tried to cut off her then husband’s penis with barbed wire. “I didn’t manage to finish the job, sadly,” she says. Married for 28 years, she adds: “The day I came here was the day I got my life back.”
Amanda has to work out how to manage their drug needs while the women are in prison.
The book recounts how in a short appointment a bond can be built. She may only see an inmate for one appointment, but it is clear how important it is for the women to have a relationship with someone not connected to the prison or their lives outside. Sadly, Amanda may never know how her patients fare when they leave Bronzefield. Many in fact return as they would rather be inside than homeless outside.
To explore what could help offenders to turn their lives around, Amanda goes to visit the Anawim Centre in Birmingham. This is one of 40 centres set up to help untangle their lives which have been affected by previous traumas. To help a woman in one of these centres costs a fraction of the £65ooo a year to keep a woman in Bronzefield.
I can’t imagine how I would cope with life inside, but I do know that to meet a woman like Dr Amanda Brown would bring me hope and comfort.