The Making of a Criminal
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First published in 1977, Angel Face documents the penal life of Walter Probyn, who spent 30 out of 44 years in prison and escaped 15 times. He describes the succession of events which began when he was a nine-year-old ‘blitz kid’ who ‘stole’ a can of peas from a bombed shop, and tells in absorbing and harrowing detail his time in prison and on the run. Important though his description and indictment of prison life and the treatment of so-called hardened offenders may be, his particular attention to carefully planned and ingenious escapes gives great insight into his fight for retaining his independence and his insatiable craving for freedom.
This is not a book which glamourises crime. It does raise serious and debatable questions about the need for reform of a penal system which has failed in its objectives. These questions are discussed in an introduction and final commentary by noted criminologist, Stan Cohen, who puts Probyn’s story into a wider context. His life is a classic example of the way in which the penal system, far from curing crime, may actually encourage it, by strengthening the resolve and bitterness of those who resist being institutionalised and fitting into authority’s moulds. But is three-quarters of a lifetime a responsible price to pay? The authorities and Walter Probyn give different answers. This book will be of interest to anyone intrigued by the other side of the penal system but especially to students of law, criminology, and sociology.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Introduction Probyn’s Life 1. Initiation 2. Graduation 3. Hooked on Prison 4. Escapes, Dartmoor and Maximum Security 5. Durham: Escapes and Mutiny 6. Five Years of Campaigning 7. Leyhill and Release Publisher’s Note Appendix Commentary Notes and References Postscript