Breakfast at Bronzefield – Sophie Campbell [Books]

breakfast at bronzefieldsBreakfast at Bronzefield is an honest account of a woman’s time spent in two women’s prisons in the UK. Campbell (a pseudonym) isn’t just upfront about what she experienced in prison, but is very much clear in her accounts of herself, the people she dealt with in the court system, the lawyers, and her own family.

Some people writing a similar account might try to paint themselves in a better light, justify their actions, try to ignore their own faults. Campbell doesn’t do any of this. She confronts everything, telling us readers exactly what she did and her reactions to certain situations, without really making excuses, but providing context. Although she gives no details of the crime that saw her locked up, she does explain it was GBH and assault on a police officer, though she does clarify a little on what actually happened with the officer.

I really admire Sophie Campbell. It’s hard not to. The book reveals her determination, her strength, and her attitude of ‘treat me as you want to be treated’. She presents information alongside her own experiences, providing statistics and quotes from reports, as well as putting forth her own ideas on how prisons can be reformed.

She talks about her actions in prison, the attitude of the guards towards the women, the way other women acted, and the version of a ‘typical female prisoner’ versus the reality. For Sophie, the problem is twofold. Because she is in prison, and because she is Black, no one expects her to be highly educated. Some women act up to the impression the guards hold of what a female prisoner should act like, with middle-class women putting on more lower-class accents. Sophie does not do this, and admits she may have been treated worse because she does not conform to the guards’ stereotypical views.

There’s a lot of issues raised throughout this book, and I really hope it gets the attention it deserves. It shows how much is wrong with the current system, and though Campbell is aware there are no simple solutions, she makes the case for reform really well. And really, just because the solutions aren’t simple doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

She details her treatment, and explains why having more women in guard roles and more BAME people is not the solution to many of the problems faced by women in prison. Instead, Campbell’s book points out why total reform is required, with more focus on providing women in prison with training and education, with actual skills they can utilize on leaving, and why training needs to go above a Level 1.

Overall, this is a really good book that provides a detailed account of life in the prison system. Sophie Campbell mixes narrative and facts in a way that makes the book almost fascinating to read, and through this book and the battle to get it published, she has shown herself to be a strong woman who won’t let anyone silence her, and won’t let anything stand in her way.

As I said above, this book deserves attention, because of the subject matter and engaging tone. Changes need to be made, at every level of the criminal justice system, and Campbell outlines this really well. This is definitely a book worth picking up.

Thank you to Sophie Campbell Books for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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