Book Review – “The Prison Doctor”

This year I’ve read a lot of non-fiction, and a lot of quite intense non-fiction at that. This was no different, and I’m really glad it wasn’t.

Dr Amanda Brown has spent her recent work years in some of Britain’s most challenging jails, including in infamous Scrubs. From middle class suburbia to violent offenders, Dr Brown really has seen it all. In this candid book, she talks about how changes within the NHS putting pressure on GPs made her take a leap in a completely different direction, and how, at 65, she has no intention of slowing down.

Someone who was a friend and then moved on through my life spent time in HMP Bronzefield, so I was emotionally invested from more than a book lovers perspective early on. Knowing there are doctors like Dr Brown working with and caring for some of the most vulnerable members of society is a reassuring memento to take away from this book. And yet isn’t it even more important to take away how impressive an ability it is to care for someone, no matter what they’ve done, no matter how rude they are, no matter how appalling their behaviour? To be able to put all that to one side and say, “it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, I am your doctor”, is a skill that few people possess.

Dr Brown tells stories of suicide, self harm, violent attacks, riots, teenage offenders, drug addicts, and everyone in between. She talks of knowing people will be repeat offenders. She speaks of wanting to help drug addicts get clean but needing the time to do it. She speake of having to limit painkillers that can be used as currency within the prison. It is eye opening, horrifying and shamelessly intriguing; the intense nature of this book is something that can neither be escaped or forgotten, and stays with you.

I read this book with twenty four hours. I couldn’t stop reading. I needed to know every word she had written, and when the book came to an end, my immediate concern was whether she would write another upon her retirement, which will hopefully be, for the people she treats, many years in the future.

This will be one of the books in 2019 that stays with me, and that has changed me on a deep level. I am so grateful for Dr Brown to share some of her experiences, and for the treatment, kindness and respect she clearly gives to the prisoners she comes into contact with.

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