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Award-winning Telegraph reporter James Phelps drags readers back into the drug-fuelled world of life behind bars, this time delivering a shocking exposé of Australia’s worst female prisoners and the jails they call home. Your life-on-the-inside education is about to begin…
Review by That Metal Man.
With opening chapters such as Prison Sex and Smack and Speed, Green is the New Black is as confrontational as you would expect from a book with pages dripping with doses of prison-administered morphine, and sex. If you caught Phelps’ previous graphic book Australia’s Toughest Prisons: Inmates, let me assure you that Green is the New Black is a step up in the disgust and shock stakes.
As Phelps assures us at the end of the first chapter, Prison Sex, “Sex isn’t the biggest problem in jail. Naughtiest? Sure. But nothing compared to the drug epidemic”. And thus the tone of the book is set; expect sex, drugs and violence (although in fairness there are uplifting stories that help keep the book on some level of reader-ease, albeit in teased glimpses).
Green is the New Black is an education for those of us who wake in the morning, drive kids to school, shop at weekends, pay taxes, and save for holidays on the Gold Coast. Life on the inside is as alien to us as normal life is for those locked away.
Fancy learning what a ‘Hairy Handbag’ is? Curious about the lengths an incarcerated junkie will go to to cop a ‘hit’? Yes, of course you are, your curiosity demands you flick pages; Phelps’ style of opinion and interview quotes demand it.
Green is the New Black paints an extreme picture of life inside Australia’s toughest female prisons, and to me it comes across far worse than what’s behind the bars of their male counterparts.
As Phelps says himself, “…you won’t believe some of the things they do to score a hit in jail… you have been warned,” And warned, I was. Prepared, I wasn’t. For Phelps’ description of two junkies getting their hit, courtesy of another woman’s stomach contents, is as horrific as anything I’ve ever read (thanks, James, I was halfway through my lunch as I hit that paragraph). My stomach turned. I felt my face go white. Workmates voiced concern. What I’d finished reading will stay with me forever – even worse than Phelps’ description from Australia’s Toughest Prisons: Inmates, of Martin Bryant carrying out ‘favours’ for chocolate.
Green is the New Black paints an extreme picture of life inside Australia’s toughest female prisons, and to me it comes across far worse than what’s behind the bars of their male counterparts. Again, Phelps gained access to prisoners, ex-cons and prison guards, each telling their side of stories, some going back decades. Phelps’ ability to gain the trust of these people, to me, is extraordinary. From the prison-visit sex and drug swaps, to the animalistic violence that hardened guards admit they have little control over, this book is like grabbing you by the arms and swirling you around in circles at high speed, as you unsuccessfully try to focus on the myriad of dark scenes swirling around you.
“…you’ll recoil in the horrific account of Katherine Mary Knight, mother of four, who roasted her partner’s backside in the oven with roast vegetables in February 2000.”
The scariest component of the book’s stories and characters, however, isn’t necessarily the drugs, the vomit, the sex or the violence but, rather, the first offenders, the women who’ve never touched a drug in their lives, who suddenly find themselves smack in the middle of hell. It’s the stories from these women that readers are most likely to identify with; the horror of one day waking up beside a killer or junkie who views you as little more than an opportunity to meet their ‘needs’.
If you’re a fan of the Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal films, you’ll recoil in the horrific account of Katherine Mary Knight, mother of four, who roasted her partner’s backside in the oven with roast vegetables in February 2000. Knight was preparing a banquet. Her victim, John Charles Thomas Price – his head stewing in a pot, his carcass hanging from hooks – had warned work colleagues earlier that afternoon that he may not be at work the following day because he suspected his partner was going to murder him. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happened next.
Oh, James Phelps, you’ve done it again, and to think I’m only 3/5 of the way through. This is not easy reading but it is essential. There’s a whole world out there that most people keep at a long, healthy distance. James Phelps narrows that distance, for better or for worse. Don’t miss this!
Green is the New Black, as seen in BOOKED with Anastasia, Episode 24. (below)
Green is the New Black
Ever wondered what life is like for our Aussie jailbirds? Is it as bad as Wentworth or Orange is the New Black? No. It’s worse.
Ivan Milat, the notorious backpacker serial killer, is not the most feared person in the prison system. Nor is it Martin Bryant, the man responsible for claiming 35 lives in the Port Arthur massacre. No, the person in Australia controversially ruled ‘too dangerous to be released’, the one who needs chains, leather restraints and a full-time posse of guards is Rebecca Butterfield: a self-mutilating murderer, infamous for slicing guards and stabbing another inmate 33 times...