Andy West’s book, The Life Inside: A Memoir of Family, Philosophy and Prison, was chosen as a book of the day by the Guardian when it was published earlier this year.
West teaches philosophy in prisons and he has first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be part of the family outside – his father, uncle and brother all spent time in prison.
‘What emerges powerfully from his account is the potential that many prisoners possess, educationally and academically, but which has been wasted in their teenage years for all sorts of reasons (there is such a strong connection between growing up in care or being excluded from school and going to prison),’ says Peter Stanford.
‘Yet prison education runs on a shoestring budget, sits bottom of the management hierarchy in jails, and finds it hard to recruit committed, inspiring teachers such as West to take on the challenge.’
What’s the point of teaching philosophy to prisoners? Why feel guilty because members of your close family have been to prison? These are the agonising conundrums Andy West struggles with in his professional and personal life, which he recounts in a raw and unsentimental way. Questions about responsibility, forgiveness, shame, truth are the stuff of everyday life, but more so of prison.
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