Author(s): Erwin James
Born in Somerset in 1957 to itinerant Scottish parents, Erwin James lost his mother when he was seven. Shipped from home to home and subject to the whims of various caregivers after his father turned to alcohol and violence, he committed his first crime of breaking and entering when he was ten. His teenage and early adult years were spent drifting, and his petty crime turned increasingly violent, culminating in the terrible events for which he was jailed for life in 1984.
Entering prison at 27, James struggled to come to terms with the enormity of his crimes and a future without purpose or hope. Then he met Joan, a prison psychologist, who helped him to confront the painful truth of his past, and to understand how it had shaped him from such a young age. Her sessions transformed his life. Encouraged to read and to educate himself, over the next twenty years Erwin James would go on to receive a BA in History, and become a regular columnist for the Guardian.
Speaking to the very heart of the human condition, this is a book that offers no excuses - only the need to understand how we become who we become, and shows that no matter how far a person may fall, redemption is possible with the right kind of help. It is an important and timely memoir.
The unforgettable story of a damaged little boy who became a fatally damaging man, who embarked on a twenty-year journey behind bars that would take him out of the darkness and into the light
Honest and compelling -- Martina Cole A painful and honest and beautiful account of a life blighted by circumstance and neglect, then wasted in criminality, and then, gloriously, redeemed by the power of the written word and by the capacity of the human heart for compassion and forgiveness ... Heartbreaking, poignant and affecting -- Stephen Kelman, author of Pigeon English One of the most powerful and touching books on crime and punishment I have ever read. Deserves to be a classic of the genre. It should be the bedside reading of every home office minister and of anyone involved in the criminal justice system -- Duncan Campbell, former Guardian chief crime reporter A compelling, extremely moving and finally uplifting memoir -- John Healy, author of The Grass Arena This memoir stands as a powerful testament to the redemption that can come from books and education and how hope can spring from the most unlikely of places - our maximum security prisons. Erwin James writes of pain, darkness and murder, but also of light and hope and with a searing honesty that catches the breath. Earlier this year the ludicrous book ban in our prisons was overturned but if any future Justice Secretary ever considers its return he should be sent a copy of this memoir immediately -- Professor David Wilson Compelling and intelligent prose on life inside Daily Telegraph What does it say about a man who has done almost twenty years in prison that his writing should be marked by such humanity, compassion and wisdom? Never pleading for himself or pitching for our pity, Erwin James's account of life inside is fascinating not just for its portrait of a harsh and secret world but because in the author we are introduced to a man of rare self-awareness, strength and intelligence Ronan Bennett on The Home Stretch: From Prison to Parole An extraordinary portrayal of life in a British prison Daily Mail on A Life Inside: A Prisoner's Notebook A powerful and illuminating description of real life behind bars that stays in your mind long after you put the book down Daily Express
Erwin James is a Guardian columnist and author. He has published two collections of essays: A Life Inside: A Prisoner's Notebook and The Home Stretch: From Prison to Parole. A trustee of the Prison Reform Trust, he has given keynote addresses to the Royal Society in Edinburgh, the Probation Union at the Danish parliament and the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and an Honorary Master of the Open University, and is patron of a number of offender rehabilitation charities.