Hell, the first volume in Jeffrey Archer's The Prison Diaries, is the author's daily record of the time he spent there.
The sun is shining through the bars of my window on what must be a glorious summer day. I've been incarcerated in a cell five paces by three for twelve and a half hours, and will not be let out again until midday; eighteen and a half hours of solitary confinement. There is a child of seventeen in the cell below me who has been charged with shoplifting - his first offence, not even convicted - and he is being locked up for eighteen and a half hours, unable to speak to anyone. This is Great Britain in the twenty-first century, not Turkey, not Nigeria, not Kosovo, but Britain.
On Thursday 19 July 2001, after a perjury trial lasting seven weeks, Jeffrey Archer was sentenced to four years in jail. He was to spend the first twenty-two days and fourteen hours in HMP Belmarsh, a double A-Category high-security prison in South London, which houses some of Britain's most violent criminals. This is his illuminating insight into prison life.
Convicted of perjury in 2001, Archer, a bestselling novelist (Sons of Fortune) and member of the British House of Lords, penned this memoir about his first three weeks in prison, focusing on his daily life, the prisoners' lives and the state of the British penal system. An old hand at plotting novels and developing stories, Archer moves his memoir at a captivating pace, a credit to his storytelling skills considering the book's characters are in their cells for 22 hours a day. Deftly using mundane hour logs, he relates the slow passage of time without falling into the trap of recounting events minute by minute. Knowing that his story as a wealthy, educated celebrity with high-powered attorneys pales in comparison, Archer focuses on the sad, strange and even silly tales of his fellow inmates, a cast of hardened criminals and smalltime crooks. Concentrating on others also serves to help Archer avoid extended fits of melodramatic and self-serving prose (as when he compares himself to Oscar Wilde), which occur when he writes about his own case. But balancing this small flaw with his humorous descriptions of prison food and listening to a cricket match that seems as long as his four-year sentence adds a needed bit of humanity to this controversial politician. Of course, some of Archer's observations and the inmates' tales can't be taken as gospel since Archer is a convicted perjurer and his secondhand stories come from the mouths of murderers and other felons. But those caveats do not override the strong narrative and good writing that make this memoir an intriguing and engaging version of the often-trite prison journal.
Another good read from Mr Archer. You're a brave man
Prison diaries vol 1
What a great insight of prison life surely these words could be used to review the prison system altogether