Borstal to Bedlam by Sarah Jane Baker
The poems and short stories in Borstal to Bedlam: Poetry & Prose from the Gutter to the Grave were written during Sarah Jane Baker’s thirty-year incarceration in the British prison system. The words sit comfortably in the grand old, well-respected tradition of prison writing, with observations of life from the wrong side of the tracks recalled in rhyming couplets, free-form narrative and cheeky limerick-esque song. Sometimes sad but more often funny, written portraits of old cell mates and partner’s-in-crime sit alongside tales of (in)justice metered out by rote.
Released from jail in early 2019 Sarah Jane Baker was arrested at her home and remanded to prison on 12 July 2023. She now faces two counts of criminal prosecution for words spoken during a speech at London’s Trans Pride event, and the potential reality of serving the remainder of a life sentence for being in breach of her license conditions — this is in spite of probation initially deciding that she would not be recalled to jail, and the police decision that there was no case to answer.
Borstal to Bedlam is being published to raise awareness of Baker’s circumstance, as well as to raise funds for the campaign to free her. It is also being published to add Baker’s unique voice to the poetic canon — it being a far cry from the current cautious and often over-educated mode of modern poetry — as well as to demonstrate the enduring empathy that defines her as a person, which stands in opposition to those parties who would see her voice censured, silenced, and erased.
Paperback / 52 pages