News

Scarred now available on Kobo

When Scarred was released last November in paperback, my publisher signed an exclusive deal with Kindle for the digital version. The terms of that agreement have now expired, so I’m pleased to announce Scarred is now available from other ebook providers. It launched on Kobo today (see here), and it should be available from all the other leading sellers within a couple weeks.

In other news, unfortunately COVID-19 has claimed yet another business, in the form of news website 10 daily, which will close down this Friday. While I’m upset I will no longer be able to write for them I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity. They will be missed.

Something I learnt in prison is that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. One of the first things I did in prison was start writing my novel. When that was finished I started teaching myself to draw. When the pandemic restrictions started I took it as an opportunity to focus my energy on completing my master’s degree. The coursework is now done and I am essentially just waiting for the current semester to formally end so that I can apply to graduate. Now that that chapter of my life is over I’m finally free to focus more on my autobiography. I’ve now cracked the 100,000 word mark, and hope to have an ‘up-to-date’ draft within the next couple months. Watch this space as always folks. 🙂

Interview with Damien Linnane up at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

A journalist working for Sydney Criminal Lawyers, a law firm that also publishes regular articles relating to the law and criminal justice system, reached out last week regarding my views on COVID-19 and the government inaction on releasing prisoners. That article went live this morning. You can read it here.

It’s definitely a real shame Australia hasn’t followed the example set by countries like the US, Ireland, and even Iran in releasing low-risk offenders to help protect the community from corona-virus overwhelming the cramped conditions inside our prison system, and then spreading back to the community via essential prison staff. And especially confusing since laws allowing for the release of inmates for that reason have been passed, though not taken advantage of. Check out the article to read more on the subject.

New article published on 10 daily

It’s been a while since I’ve sold an article to 10 daily, but as I already mentioned I’ve had more time to write ever since coronavirus effectively shut down all the promotional appearances I had booked for my novel this year. Ironically one of the first things I’ve done with my time is write some opinion pieces about coronavirus and the prison system. I sent an article to 10 daily last week though it wasn’t their cup of tea; I instead shared it on my website in my last post. They did, however, suggest a topic for me to write on instead, and given what it was, I was only too happy to oblige. So here’s my official response to everyone currently quarantined in a five-star hotel that are comparing themselves to prisoners. Check out the article here.

Thankfully my novel promotion isn’t completely dead in the water either. The Australian Crime Writers Association has featured Scarred on their website, and I got a killer review from author Lee Hall just the other day. Go check out his website and his novels if you’re looking for something else to read during our extended self-isolation period.

Update: The Daily Mail ended up publishing an article … about my article. You can check that out here.

Opinion piece: Why releasing prisoners will help protect our community from COVID-19

The prison I was sent to for the majority of my 10-month sentence didn’t even have a fence around it. There were boundaries, of course. We all knew we weren’t allowed to step over the other side of the road that led into the prison, and at one point there was a yellow line painted on the ground to mark where we couldn’t cross. But it would have been ridiculously easy to make an initial escape. People frequently seem amazed when I tell them this, but the simple fact is only the lowest risk inmates were sent there. Everyone there had less than three years left on their sentence, and most had significantly less than that to begin with. The prospect of living life on the run until our inevitable recapture, followed by being sentenced to another year or so in a more secure prison for escaping, was not even remotely appealing.

While security was clearly low, we were still in an extremely close environment with one another. During the day I worked in a crowded office environment, handling administration duties for the prison. At night we were locked in small units, each containing a dozen or so prisoners, and many of us had to share a cell with another inmate. When it came to winter, someone inevitably got the flu. It wasn’t long until the entire prison was suffering from it.

If you think access to healthcare and medical professionals is sub-standard in the general community, you’d be amazed at how much worse it is in the prison system. There was a nurse available every day for minor ailments like headaches. But if you wanted to see a doctor for a more serious problem, the waiting period was frequently more than a month. The waiting period to see the dentist was about four months. An elderly prisoner in my wing with failing health was on a waiting list for over six months just to be transferred to another prison with better health facilities.

It is well-known that COVID-19 spreads faster in enclosed environments, and it has long been established that prisons are especially hard hit by airborne communicable diseases. On account of this, certain low-risk inmates have already been released in Ireland, the United States and Iran in order to protect the community. Here in Australia, an open letter was recently signed by over 370 lawyers, academics and advocates was released, urging the Australian government to do the same, noting that once coronavirus gets into our prison system, there will be a “substantial flow on effect to the community, including community health services”.

In response to COVID-19, the prison system in Victoria has announced a ban on visiting inmates. While this will may buy us some time, like most of the government’s initial responses to this outbreak, it is a completely inadequate response. Prisons are still obviously attended daily by guards, education staff, nurses, lawyers and support workers. Coronavirus reaching our prisons is inevitable, and our already sub-standard and struggling prison health system simply cannot handle a mass outbreak.

I costs nearly $110,000 a year to keep someone in prison in Australia. While our community undeniable should be protected from violent individuals, over 2,500 prisoners in Australia are currently deemed low-risk enough to be serving their sentences at ‘open’ prisons, being those that do not require inmates “to be confined by a secure perimeter physical barrier”. If people are designated as such a low risk to the community that they don’t even need a fence to contain them, one struggles to imagine why the government thinks this money is best spent keeping them in an environment where they are going to exacerbate this growing pandemic, rather than investing it into fighting the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 update

Unfortunately with the ongoing pandemic many events, both large and small, are being cancelled. Among these are the Newcastle Writer’s Festival in April and also the Write Here! festival in May. I was booked to appear at both events, though I have already been assured I will be able to appear at next year’s Write Here! festival. I think it’s highly likely I’ll be able to appear at next year’s Newcastle Writer’s Festival as well.

The book signing on March 29 I previously advertised has been postponed indefinitely. Organisers have assured me the event will be going ahead at a later date, once things have returned to normal. But as you’re probably aware, nobody has an exact idea of when that will be. The only other event I had already been booked for this year is in September. We can only hope the situation will have stabilised by then. In any case I’ll keep you posted.

As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. At least that’s what I did in prison, using the enforced isolation to write my novel and then teach myself to draw. Now that I’m spending more time at home due to coronavirus I’m getting portrait drawing orders done a lot faster (send me an email if you’d like to order one), I’m making good progress on a couple different writing projects, plus I’m sure catching up on a lot of reading. If you’re looking for something to read to help pass the hours of self-isolation, obviously I do recommend my novel Scarred which is available on Kindle and for order from all good book retailers in paperback.

Stay safe everyone, and best wishes.