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A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  193 ratings  ·  108 reviews

Where can a tin of tuna buy you clean clothes? Which British education system struggles with 50% illiteracy? Where do teetotal Muslims attend AA meetings? Where is it easier to get 'spice' than paracetamol? Where does self-harm barely raise an eyebrow?

Welcome to Her Majesty's Prison Service, a creaking and surreal world that has been left to rot for decades in the shadows

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Kindle Edition, 335 pages
Published February 6th 2020 by Atlantic Books
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Average rating 4.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  193 ratings  ·  108 reviews


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Nadia
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
4 fascinating stars

A Bit of a Stretch is a brutally honest and horrifying account of the author's time spent in one of the worst prisons in the UK.Chris Atkins was sentenced to 5 years in prison for tax evasion and kept a diary during his time in Wandsworth prison. Initially I had mixed feelings about reading a book written by a convict, but in the end my curiosity got the better of me. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. Atkins is very open about his crime and admits he broke the law and
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Mark
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Outstanding!
Chris Atkins, a former film producer, including making films for Dispatches ( Ch4 ) is sentenced to 5 years for ( in simple terms ) a money/tax fraud, that although he didn’t benefit from personally his company did and he was ‘aware’ of, he freely admits his crime and punishment

The book, is in diary form,pre trial, trial and the bulk of about his time in Wandsworth Prison, what he see’s, hears, experiences and his many feelings about it all but this is no self pity party, quite the
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Nigel
Briefly - Hum... I have mixed views on this. In parts very interesting though.

In full
Chris, the author, was a documentary maker. He became embroiled in a tax scam which led to him being prosecuted. He was sentenced to five years in prison initially in HMP Wandsworth. He decided to keep a diary of his time in prison and this book is the result. It shows at least some of the highs and lows of his time there and of Wandsworth and the prison system generally.

This is one of those books where the
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Louise Wilson
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chris Atkins was sentenced to five years for fraud. He tells us about the time he spent in Wandsworth prison in detail. We learn of the monotony of living behind bars. Chris Atkins is a journalist and documentary maker. He decided to keep a diary whilst inside. This is an interesting, eye opening and informative read. If you like true crime you will really e joy this book.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Atlantic Books and the author Chris Atkins for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Angela Groom
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Chris Atkins is a film maker, with a young son who gets mixed up in a tax avoidance scheme and ends up being sentenced to five years in prison in 2016. A bit of a stretch was informative, insightful and deeply moving.
The prison he is sent to is Wandsworth and definitely is not the holiday camp vibe you often read about and hear in the media.
He keeps diaries throughout his sentence and it proves to be a fantastic read.
Absolutely gripping book that has you so frustrated at times, on the verge
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Latkins
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 2016, documentary filmmaker Chris Atkins was sentenced to five years in prison for being part of an illegal tax scheme to help fund one of his films. This is his diary of his time in Wandsworth Prison, and it’s a real eye-opener. No matter what your attitude towards crime and punishment, the way Wandsworth and many other prisons are being mismanaged is clearly an ineffective waste of public money, as well as being dehumanising to both the prisoners and the staff, and promoting an environment ...more
Lainy
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Time taken to read - 2 days (in and out)

Publisher - Atlantic books

Source - Netgalley

Blurb from Goodreads

A shocking and darkly funny account of the reality of Britain's prisons.

Where can a tin of tuna buy you clean clothes? Which British education system struggles with 50% illiteracy? Where do teetotal Muslims attend AA meetings? Where is it easier to get 'spice' than paracetamol? Where does self-harm barely raise an eyebrow?

Welcome to Her Majesty's Prison Service, a creaking and surreal world
...more
Kim
Nov 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about Chris Atkins a journalist and documentary filmmaker. In 2016 he was sentenced to 5 years in prison. The prison in question being Wandsworth. His crime being fraudulent tax avoidance scheme.

We meet some very likeable characters some of whom help him settle into the hard stretched prison system. This book bursts the bubble that prisons are like holiday camps as we go through his day to day struggle to get his glasses repaired and for other prisoners to just be given some
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Susan Hampson
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Chris Atkins was sentenced to serve five years in Wandsworth Prison in 2016 after being found guilty of tax evasion. For good behaviour, he was expected to serve just half that time. Although there have been umpteen documentaries about our prison system in the past, you always feel like certain situations have been staged. Chris by trade was a documentary maker and so over his time spent inside her kept a journal of day to day life there.
Now Chris does have a wicked humour which helps to lighten
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Lindsay
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you to NetGalley and Atlantic Books*

This is a raw and eye opening account of Chris Atkins’ experience inside HMP Wandsworth, for his crime of tax fraud. It offers a rare, all access insight into what it’s really like in one of the most dangerous prisons in Britain. From dodgy inmates to equally dodgy prison officers (or ‘screws’ as they are called inside), to the lack of reformation and squalid conditions, Chris offers his
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Sarah
Dec 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable read which described Chris's short sentence throughout the UK prison service. The reader gets to see what life inside the prison walls can be like for people who aren't seen as you standard prisoner. The reader also gets to see just how bad the prison system is and how it is clearly not fit for purpose. A good read if a little bit repetitive at times.
Angela
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chris Atkins was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. He's not the stereotypical prisoner we're used to hearing about – he doesn't do drugs, in fact he doesn't even smoke, he's middle class and got a degree at Oxford – and as a way of coping with prison life he writes down a little about each day.

His diary of life inside Wandsworth is both fascinating and horrifying and makes for compelling reading. There are ways of climbing the hierarchy system and being an educated
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Lindsay
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
A brutally honest and horrific look at what our prisons are really like. This book does not make for easy reading and although I agree prisoner’s should be punished the stories about practises within the prison walls are shocking. There are so many things in this book that if they just put a few of the suggestions properly Into practice they could make positive changes not just to the prisoners but also all of the staff who work there. The fact so many criminals reoffend is proof enough that ...more
Tracy
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pigeonhole
Chris Atkins is a journalist and filmmaker who was found guilty of being passively involved in a tax scam, the profits from which ended up funding his hard-hitting expose style documentaries. He was given 5 years (2.5 with good behaviour) and was initially sent to the infamous Wandsworth prison, although once he had only 24 months left on his sentence, he would be able to request a transfer to an Open Prison, meaning a much less restrictive, and more pleasant environment.

Chris decided to make
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Caroline Kerdouci
Presumably a much sanitised version of life behind bars, A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins makes compelling reading. Written in an anecdotal style the narrative draws on the author’s spell in the notorious Wandsworth prison.
I imagine as a white,educated,fairly privileged man convicted of a white collar crime,his initiation into this new ‘lifestyle’ must have been absolutely terrifying yet he writes with a lighthearted touch proving that humour can always be found in the most dire of
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Emma
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Just like every other service in the UK, the prisons are up shit creek without a paddle. Too much to do and not enough money to do it. Everything is stretched to breaking point and the more you find out about how things are 'run', the more you realise it's pretty bloody stunning that the whole thing hasn't fallen disastrously apart already. Of course, the number of people dying or being seriously injured in prisons each year, both cons and officers alike, might suggest it's there or thereabouts, ...more
Amy
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TW: discussion of substance use, self-harm, suicide

Firstly i'd like to say a big thank you to NetGalley and Atlantic Books for allowing me to read this eARC. All views and opinions discussed here are my own.

I was really intrigued by the premise of this book, especially after reading The Prison Doctor, and really enjoying it. I hadn't seen many other books that were actually from a prisoners perspective and so thought this would be a really intriguing story. I wasn't wrong at all.

This was a
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Kevin
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Bit Of A Stretch follows Chris Atkins' 9 months in Wandsworth prison, which leads to the big question about this kind of biography, is he guilty? Well, it's not a spoiler to say yes, he is. And I think he adopts a tone that most people will find reasonable - he's not proud of his crime, but he doesn't shirk away from it either. Based on the details I'd say most people would feel pretty aggrieved to be in his shoes - certainly, I've read other biographies where people find it far harder to ...more
Lenore
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written informative book about the author serving his jail sentence in Wandsworth prison. Wandsworth prison is well known for being one of the oldest and largest prisons in Europe. The story he tells about his time there is both horrifying and amusing. During austerity years the Prison Service clearly took a hit. It clearly has never been the focus of any government and the last decade has brought it into crisis..

The author tells his story. From the passing of his sentence until
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Tracy Wood
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, netgalley-2020
This is both entertaining and scary because I have no doubt that, with a little artistic licence, this is an accurate portrayal of our prison system in the 21st century. Chris Atkins doesn't pull any punches but does admit that, as a white, well educated, middle class Englishman, he had definite advantages right from the start of his incarceration and others experience far worse conditions than he did.

He could however, have sat back, merged into the 'white collar crew', served his time and left,
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Vicky
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chris Atkins’ A Bit of A Stretch was always going to be up my street. Told by Chris Atkins, the documentary maker who actually did go to prison (not undercover, as I first thought, but was actually convicted of a crime) for tax fraud, the book is part-memoir, part damning exposé on the frankly shocking state of the justice system. And though you might not think it, it’s also very darkly funny.
The book details Atkins’ time at HMP Wandsworth, perhaps the most notorious of prison jails. And it’s
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Mark Porton
Chris Atkins was sentenced for a stretch of 5 years for tax fraud, he spent around 2 years in prison and 9 of those months in the notorious HMP Wandsworth.

Atkins is a documentary maker and writer which puts him in an ideal position to confidently convey his experiences to his audience - and this he does extremely well.

He highlights the deficiencies in our penal system, and none of these really come as a surprise. Staffing levels of prison guards (screws), stifling bureaucracy and mismanagement
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Cheryl
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chris Atkins is a middle class film-maker with a young son when he becomes mixed up in a tax-avoidance scheme and ends up being sentenced to five years in prison. "A Bit of a Stretch" is based on the diaries he kept during his time at Wandsworth, and makes for shocking, informative and discomforting read.

I couldn't put this book down, it was absolutely gripping. Other than the odd prison-based TV show, I haven't given much thought to life on the inside, and probably would have considered myself
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Lee Osborne
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up in an airport bookshop at godawful o'clock this morning, and it kept me engrossed enough during a gruelling day of travel that I've finished it already. Absolutely fascinating stuff, moving, thought provoking, scary and funny.

HMP Wandsworth is absolutely brutal, and I'm convinced that if I ever ended up there, I'd come out in a box. The author spent nine months of a five-year sentence for fraud there, and was surrounded by violence, squalor, drugs and sheer ineptitude on a
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Deborah Dare
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review
An insightful view into life as a prison inmate at HMP Wandsworth. Chris Atkins is incarcerated for his involvement in a dodgy financial scheme to fund his next film production.

He tells of the trials he personally encounters on entering jail from running out of toilet paper to the difficulties he has with his solicitor (who doesn’t seem to want to know now that he’s not making money from him). He uses his time to become involved as a Listener (part of the in-prison Samaritan service) and
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Claire
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had high expectations for ‘A Bit of a Stretch’ but unfortunately was left feeling disappointed. Straight away we learn that prisoners at HM Prison Wandsworth tend to segregate themselves along racial lines. It’s not long before the author begins to suppress his liberal values when his cellmate launches into a tirade against ethnic minorities. No one ever knows how they’ll respond when placed in a situation like that, but there is something off-putting when you read of people keeping quiet when ...more
Michelle B
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘A Bit Of A Stretch’ refers to time spent in prison being known as ‘a stretch’ but how anyone could read this book and think that any time spent in UK prisons could be described as a bit of anything other than dehumanising misery in a totally hopeless and failed system, is beyond me.
I have, over the past year, read Mim Skinner’s ‘Jailbirds’ and Dr Amanda Brown’s ‘The Prison Doctor’, and whilst I rate both of those highly, if you choose to read just one book about prisons in the UK today, please
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Lynne Smith
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very thought provoking and insightful account of Chris Atkins stretch in Wandsworth Prison. This memoir shows a broken, dehumanising and unfair regime in which mentally ill prisoners self harm and commit suicide. The men are locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day, unable to access education, the outdoors, showers and a phone, yet drugs are readily available. Half of the prison population are functionally illiterate and yet there seems to be a prevailing attitude that education is a ...more
Fay Flude
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An eye opener of a book which is designed to shock, horrify and yet entertain the reader whilst hoping to reveal the real life crisis prisons in the UK are in.
This is a memoir of an educated man, a journalist and film maker who is convicted of a white collar crime (fraud) and finds himself detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure, Wandsworth.
We learn how Chris adapts and how he uses his time in prison to highlight the appalling living conditions, inhumane treatment of functionally illiterate, mentally
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Maureen Moyes
This is a harrowing read in which Chris Atkins tells of his experience inside HMP Wandsworth.

As a documentary maker he took to writing a journal as a way of passing the time in his cell. There are many stories within this book which tell of others he encountered during his sentence.

There are dark tales, heartbreaking stories and even a dash of humour as Chris adjusts to his new life.
Many of the diary entries are shocking beyond belief.

I have so many thoughts on the issues raised in this book
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