Breakfast at Bronzefield, Memoir Review

Author Sophie Campbell

Thank you to author Sophie Campbell for providing me with a copy of her memoir in exchange for this honest review.

Breakfast at Bronzefield is the memoir of Sophie Campbell, names all changed for obvious reasons. She writes about her experiences within the walls of the UK’s largest women’s correctional facility.

I was particularly interested in reading this memoir since I have some personal experience within similar walls. Many of you may be surprised to learn that I spent three years working as a civilian officer at an American county jail. I really wanted to see what it was like on the other side of the metaphorical bars.

Campbell’s experience definitely has some mirrors to my own. Unfortunately, Campbell was the type of prisoner I absolutely hated having to deal with every day. There are many inmates who spend their time quietly reading, watching tv, working out, etc. The ones who keep their head down and just bide their time until release. They’re polite and respectful and don’t cause any more trouble.

Then there are inmates like Campbell. Who fight everything every step of the way. Are beligerent, argumentative, and even physically violent. They are destructive of property and seem to only desire to make everyone’s time there, including their own, as difficult as possible.

Campbell tries to say that prison made her that way. I have a hard time believing that when her initial arrest was for grievous bodily harm and assaulting a police officer. She doesn’t go much into that charge but you don’t assault a police office without already having some violent tendencies.

Within the prison walls she describes dozens of physical altercations with prison guards and other inmates. Literally dozens. As well as destruction of property, vandalism, and any number of other criminal acts she should have been fully charged with.

The whole book she flaunts an attitude like everyone working there had it coming to them and we would all do the same in her place. I can tell you with certainty I would not. I know for certain that if you cause this kind of trouble you’re only inviting more bad treatment.

Here’s an example: Campbell describes on more than one occasion being unhappy with the way an officer talked to her or treated her. Maybe they were rude to her verbally, very possible. Officers can definitely step outside of professionalism and say or do things they should also be held accountable for. But she took it as an invitation to press the call buzzer, to annoy them, for hours. Just to be a nuissance, no other reason.

This happened to me, I was on the other side of the buzzer, while one obnoxious inmate I’ll call K pushed it for hours just to rile me up. Here’s what happens when that buzzer is pushed. It beeps until it’s answered. If you leave it on to stop the beeping other people can’t call in with what could be an actual emergency like a seizure. So you’re not only annoying the officers you’re putting other inmates at risk.

Because of behavior like this we kept K in lockdown as much as possible. Just to keep him away from a buzzer or anything else that would distract us from doing the many other aspects of our jobs. He also had a habit of screaming nonstop for hours, insulting everyone, making verbal threats, and then escalated to throwing anything he could get his hands on at anyone’s head as they passed. Because K was such a problem we looked the other way when another inmate finally had enough and knocked him out, two punches laid him right out. When we shipped K off to another prison we warned them of what he was like and then had a party, with a specially made cake. We invited the inmate who beat him up.

Campbell does describe times when the officers definitely did step outside of what is acceptable but it’s hard to really see their actions as truly deplorable when everyone is acting poorly. She wants us to see how awful she was treated but I have to think a lot of it was just her experience, and maybe not a universal one.

Campbell does make some valid points in how she believes the system can be improved. And I fully support that she comes to the argument with solutions instead of just complaints. However, her good points become diluted when she makes herself out to be a less than sympathetic character in her own story. I’m sorry, it’s just not the way the game is played.

I do appreciate the hard work that she put in to not go back to prison and to make it on the outside. Clearly, not everybody is able to. She should be commended for that effort and hopefully others can learn from that part of the story. I just wouldn’t take her advice of pouring water on anybody who makes you mad.

Breakfast at Bronzefield is the first memoir I think I’ve read that I had a directly opposite experience to. It was very enlightening to see the thought process that went in to some of these actions I witnessed first hand. It’s a unique memoir for sure, I just don’t think it should be used as a manual.

3/5 hard times ⌛⌛⌛

Please consider using the following amazon affiliate link to purchase this book, it’s at no extra cost to you and would really help me out, thanks!

Buy it here: Breakfast at Bronzefield

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