Hello Huffington, my name is Frankie Owens. I was prisoner A1443CA at Her Majesties Pleasure until 2 August 2011. Nice to be able to blog to you its good to be outside TRUST!.
The number one question you're asked when you get out is, "What was it like?" The recent three-part TV series Strangeways about the Manchester prison had 5.6 million viewers, Porridge in 2004 was voted number seven in a poll of the 100 greatest situation comedies.
"Society wants to know about prison life, an interesting place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there"
As a first time offender I had no idea how the system or a prison worked. I was clueless to it all and it was hard for me going in, and frightening for the family and loved ones I left behind. I began writing a self help book and as the days progressed it occurred to me that this would prove useful to first time offenders and help them get through what is surely one of the most difficult times in their lives. It also motivated me to get out on the wing and find out as much as possible about my new home.
I read a lot of books about people in prison, people that were in far worse places than I was and on far longer sentences, this gave me a lot of comfort but I was most interested in the prison not the person. The writing turned into The Little Book of Prison A Beginners Guide.
I went into prison February 2011. My life was in chaos - I was free-falling into binges of alcohol and drugs whilst suffering from the mental illness hypermania. Everyone except me could see that something was seriously wrong but could do nothing to stop my self destruction. I was arrested 30 times in four months, my charge sheets were growing and the solicitors' file was full to bursting. When the desk sergeant and the jailers see you every other week you're close to getting invited to the Christmas party.
I always relish a challenge and I like new life experiences, but prison was extreme. I kept my ears open and my mouth shut. Nothing prepared me for prison, it was a nervous and dangerous learning curve. I put a "couldn't give a toss" front on, which I was sure everyone could see through. I had to stay mentally strong and the book helped me to stay focused.
I had five golden rules early on in my sentence
1 Keep your head down, do your bird, ride out your bang up
2 It's nice to be nice, be positive, entertain and see the bright side
3 Don't believe everything you hear in HMP
4 Pay your bills if you borrow
5 Never lose your cool
These ended up as the golden rules of The Little Book of Prison which won the 2011 Koestler platinum award judged by the author and comedian Will Self. The CEO of Koestler Tim Robertson also reviewed the book
"Our awards judges don't give a Platinum Award lightly, and this book is a winner on more than one level. It is a practical and totally frank introduction to real life in the British prison system - probably the best introduction there is. But it is also a wonderfully human narrative and a sharply argued critique - the wit and wisdom of one inmate who turns out to be a born writer. I was gripped from start to finish - roared with laughter one minute, winced with pain the next, and was left wondering why we have prisons at all."
What a review to get! I was doubly pleased. Although I would add to that, "If people want to know what prison is like, it's for them. If people need to know what happens in prison it's definitely for them" The Little Book of Prison is available to order at www.watersidepress.co.uk. Sorry, but can't help myself with letting you know where you can pre-order a copy, I got fines to pay people, this criminal record ain't just for Christmas.
Well thanks for having me and join me next time when I will tell you about the police cells, the reliance ride and the first night banged up...it would be criminal to miss it.
Follow Frank Owens on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@FrankieOwensJn