Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail
‘Wil’s honesty really had me gripped and his description of his first night in jail is something I won’t forget.’ – Emily Webb, crime author and podcast host of ‘Australian True Crime’.
Wil Patterson was your everyday working husband and father, trying to keep up with the latest car, house and toys for his family. Always one to make light of things, he nevertheless became increasingly desperate about how he was going to pay his bills. One day while at work at his insurance job, he came across a large cheque that was addressed to someone who shared his name. The temptation was too great and soon enough Wil found himself down at the bank. After swearing to himself, ‘never again’, it wasn’t too long before a similar situation arose and Wil could not resist.
Well, no crime goes unpunished and Wil was eventually caught and charged and, to his horror, sentenced to 3 years’ prison time. Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail is Wil’s account of his time in a contemporary Victorian prison, the unusual characters he met, the often hilarious and terrifying situations he found himself in, and the ways in which he comes to terms with his past and forges a new future.
This is for anybody who has ever wondered, ‘What is it really like inside?’ or ever speculated how they might cope if they were in the same situation. It also details the reactions of Wil’s family and friends and examines the steps Wil had to take to be accepted back into his family and society.
One upon a time, many years and career changes a go, I had a part time job – social worker for visits time at a low security prison. I was filled with the same trepidation that Will experienced for his first night at prison. I knew no-one else at the prison, I didn’t know how any of the prison systems worked (I had assumed I would have a meeting with someone on staff before I started work but that didn’t happen). I was a little concerned. The stereotypes of prisoners in crime fiction and film and TV shows were almost enough to put me off- but I was studying and thought I wanted this experience on my resume.
So Sunday – visits are generally on a Sunday, I made my way to the local prison. I didn’t even know how to enter the place and consequently drove down a road I shouldn’t have and was quickly escorted to the main entrance by a patrol of guards.
My concerns must have been obvious – one of the guards on duty that day took me to one side and said “They (prisoners) are just ordinary people. Think of the street you live in – you don’t know anything about those people, they could have a record…treat inmates like people.” But then suggested a few sensible precautions… and with that piece of worldly advice I started work, mostly I assisted prison visitors to fill out forms and allay their fears (most hadn’t been in a prison before either and shared many of my concerns) – a calm visitor makes for a good visit day.
I didn’t work there very long but that’s another story.
So I understood a little of Wil’s trepidation. It’s about expectations. And hoping most of them don’t come true.
I enjoyed this honest, creative memoir /coming of age/humorous (mostly) reflection on Wil’s time in jail. He highlights some flaws in the judicial system, reflects on his own past, his crime and accepts responsibility for his actions. He doesn’t allow himself to be defined by the actions that landed him in jail. I am pleased he has found a way to reconnect with his family and start a meaningful life.