White-collar criminal Chris Atkins’s account of his jail time exposes the dire state of our jails and justice policy

Chris Atkins, 40, was a public-school educated, Bafta-nominated film-maker and the father of a two-year-old boy, Kit, when he was sentenced, in July 2016, to five years in jail for his part in a £2.2m film investment tax fraud scheme. As prisoner A8892DT, his first nine months were spent in the rat-infested, understaffed, under-resourced, overcrowded, uber-violent, stinking, crumbling ruin, built in 1851, that is HMP Wandsworth in south London.

A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner gives a surreal, darkly funny, at times horrifying but always humane account of what it’s like to be locked up in a dysfunctional institution in which 50% of prisoners are functionally illiterate, mental ill health is rife and it’s easier to obtain spice, a synthetic version of cannabis, than paracetamol, let alone therapeutic support.

Prison should be about loss of freedom and rehabilitation, not torment and loss of self-respect

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