Review: Just Time: A Journey Through Britain’s Fractured Justice System
The prisoner’s tale started in 2008 when Stephen Jackley, at some point a university student, was arrested in the United States, after being caught in Vermont using fake identification to buy a firearm. Regrettably, the reader is not favoured with much explanation of that activity.
After a year in American jails, he was returned formally to the United Kingdom and entered the English prison system. There are hints occasionally of the meaningful differences between practice in American jails and those in England but they are not developed and that seems a missed opportunity.
Later, Stephen Jackley was convicted in England of an earlier series of armed robberies on banks, building societies and bookmakers. Some sympathy, but not much, is expressed in the narrative for the employees who had in the ordinary working day been faced with a man threatening violence.
It is a notable point that the author disliked the specification in his indictment of names of individuals whom he had assaulted in the course of his crimes. It may be a broad principle that crime committed against anonymous entities can be easier to justify, personally and to others, than those involving named individuals.
New prisoners on entering His Majesty’s Prisons are said to be asked two simple questions by other inmates: “what are you in for?” and “did you do it?” At that point, there is said to be little scope for a ‘no comment’ reply. Such a conversation is recorded by Stephen Jackley although perhaps in less peremptory terms.
The story of the author’s time in jail is interesting and depressing even for the reader and it is essentially a study in the psychology of an individual and the struggle to survive during a prolonged stay in an enclosed environment.
It may be suggested that the personal tensions between individuals in authority and others in a less privileged position, as described by the author, is not a new phenomenon.
The link made between national politics and the resulting operational effects, in other words the results of cuts to funding is revealing. Even without that added difficulty, the experience of sustained imprisonment would be depressing.
Full credit must be given to Stephen Jackley for going over his unhappy experience as a prisoner to produce a compelling view of his reality of contemporary prison life. He seeks to try to change conditions and prisons for the better, with due acknowledgement by him of those supportive members of the prison staff who must have seen his ability and did assist him.
Commendably, he completed his studies in very difficult circumstances and obtained a degree at the Open University.
Older prisoners also advise, doubtless from their collective experience similar to Stephen Jackley’s, that: “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” The problem with that sound advice is that it is usually just too late.
Just Time: A Journey Through Britain’s Fractured Justice System by Stephen Jackley