A criminal record as long as your arm isn’t the usual prerequisite for a job at The Guardian – but then the paper hasn’t previously employed a prison correspondent.
This week it revealed that former career criminal Eric Allison had got the job. Allison, 60, has served a total of 15 years in prison, mainly for theft, including spells at Strangeways, Durham, Wormwood Scrubs and Wandsworth.
He says he began writing as a way of protesting about injustices in the prison system and applied for the prison correspondent’s job after seeing it advertised in The Guardian. Allison has co-written a book about the 1990 Strangeways prison riot.
He said: “Once I started protesting through writing, I built up a network of people and the screws had to be careful, because I had backing on the outside. They’ve driven people to suicide. But they’d never drive me to suicide, because I wanted to know what was going to happen next.”
Allison will write about all aspects of prisons across the news and features sections of the paper.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said: “We don’t know enough about what goes on inside our prisons. Eric’s experience will give us a unique insight into lots of different aspects of penal policy and importantly he will help give a voice to serving prisoners.”
The appointment of Allison follows on from the success of the weekly G2 column by serving prisoner Irwin James, which will continue.
By Dominic Ponsford