Neil ‘Sam’ Samworth grew up in Sheffield and did a variety of jobs before becoming a prison officer at Forest Bank in Manchester. In 2005, he transferred to HMP Manchester, still known as Strangeways, the notorious jail where riots took place in 1990. Sam spent 11 years there.
A tough Yorkshireman with a soft heart, he had to deal with it all – gangsters and gang bangers, terrorists and psychopaths, addicts and the mentally ill.
Men who should not be locked up and men who should never be let out. As staffing cuts saw Britain’s prisons descend into crisis, the stress of the job – the suicides, the inhumanity of the system and one assault too many – left Sam suffering from PTSD, and in 2016 he left the prison service.
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Strangeways: A Prison Officer's Story
Strangeways: A Prison Officer’s Story is a shocking and at times darkly funny account of life in a high-security prison. Sam tackles cell fires and self-harmers, and goes head to head with some of the most dangerous men in the country. He averts a Christmas Day riot after turkey is taken off the menu and replaced by fish curry, and stands up to officers who abuse their position. He describes being attacked by prisoners, and reveals the problems caused by radicalisation and the drugs flooding our prisons. This raw and searingly honest memoir is a testament to the men and women of the prison service and the incredibly difficult job we ask them to do. Extract: ‘K Wing at Strangeways had all sorts, the entire spectrum – from brutal killers to prisoners other wings couldn’t handle to sales reps in for a month for crashing a car. It meant K Wing staff developed a tough reputation, despite being no harder or better equipped than anyone else. Lads in the private sector told me it was like Beirut, and they weren’t wrong, although while I was there it was mostly kept under control. The staff and prisoners we had on those landings made prison life as volatile and exciting as it gets.’
‘Neil Samworth’s story is authentic, tough, horrifying in some places and hilarious in others. It captivates the reader because the author’s honesty and decency shine through as he tells it like it is on the daily roller coaster ride of prison life in Strangeways. An enthralling, exciting but disturbing book.’
— Jonathan Aitken