Grendon Tales: Stories from a Therapeutic Community

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Waterside Press, 2001 - Psychology - 232 pages
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Ursula Smartt's ground-breaking Grendon Tales lifts the lid on a highly acclaimed regime that was developed at Grendon Underwood in Buckinghamshire from the 1960s onwards. Grendon Tales is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand: What therapy with offenders consists of; What it can achieve; How Grendon Prison with its therapeutic communities became a world leader; What drives some people to commit heinous and unspeakable crimes; How 'prison democracy' works; Why Grendon is 'the last chance saloon'; Why some prisoners struggle to 'get into' Grendon whilst others avoid the place; The impact on prisoners when they first arrive at Grendon; What happens during their time there; The pressures they face on their return to the mainstream prison system; The approach in relation to different types of offenders (including sex offenders); The effect on prisoners' lives and relationships; The aims and mission of the those who work at Grendon; and Moves to replicate its success. Direct, raw, perceptive and at times shocking, Ursula Smartt's work gives a unique insight into a world famous prison. Based on unparalleled access to HMP Grendon and direct conversations with high-risk offenders, governors, prison officers, probation officers, psychologists and other prison staff as well as her own observations of the prison's day-to-day routines over 12 months, the book provides a modern-day account of the challenging environment that Tony Parker, writing in the 1970s, described as 'The Frying Pan'. A unique work from a criminologist whose researches have taken her to prisons across the UK and in other places, including Europe, the USA and India. Her words and penetrating insights repay close study and give cause for reflection about why such methods have not been embraced more widely by a Criminal Justice System whose key aims include crime prevention, crime reduction and ensuring public safety. Reviews 'As readable as a novel... I could not put it down until finished': The Magistrate 'A breathless personal slide through her year talking to some of the country's most difficult prisoners': Frances Crook, Community Care. 'The book is both comprehensive and thourough... This is not a book to engage with lightly, or to browse through. It needs to be read completely, with a degree of commitment, for it is, ultimately, encouraging and optimistic... I can firmly endorse Ursula Smartt's work': John Broughton, It's Wandsworth.

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A brave and courageous woman talking to these disturbed criminals. The book was certainly named appropriately, because being my cynical self, they appeared extremely clever and were well used to telling tales. However, it was the "outing" by the other criminals in the group sessions that I think really exposed their psychopathy. The saying "it takes one to know one" seems to me to apply. Of course I have no knowledge of Freud or psychology / psychiatry, but I thought the studies by Freud's daughter and the Klein psychologist were more valuable than Freud. I also thought one of the prisoners's comments that the history of him getting off with cautions all the time until he finally got the heavy sentence did not in fact do him any favours was an important point in respect of sentencing policy. Maybe there should be segregated prisons for first time offenders, so they do not learn the tricks of the hardened criminals? The psychology tests mentioned would be interesting to do. I really enjoyed the book, it was an eye opener. 

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