Mr. Ordinary Goes to Jail by Wil Patterson
PUBLISHED BY HARPER COLLINS AUSTRALIA
REVIEW BY IAN WILLIAMS
A young dad living in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs was not unlike thousands of similar blokes in Australia. Staring down mounting debts, mostly from home renovations and a number of other poorly thought-out financial decisions, Wil took an opportunistic decision to deal with those debts by stealing from his employer.
Though things went to plan for a while, Wil Patterson said on many occasions that enough is enough. But still there were bills that demanded more. Having taken more than $300,000 from one of Australia’s larger financial institutions, he was escorted to a windowless room and interviewed by four people from his company including forensic accountants.
He knew his crime would lead to jail time and, once sentenced to three years, he was transferred to the Melbourne Assessment Prison (MAP). Most likely, we all have a view of how things work ‘on the inside’, whether from popular television, films and sometime personal experiences.
Patterson’s first night at MAP struck me as an amazing insight into the prison system’s mentality that most of us as mere observers are simply unaware of. The welcome pack at MAP (or, more correctly, the immediate needs pack) consisted of:
• $3 phone credit
• 1 pack of cigarettes (optional)
• 1 box of matches
• 1 toothbrush
• 1 small tube of toothpaste
• a bag containing sachets of coffee and sugar, and tea bags
• 600 ml of full cream milk
• and two condoms.
Wil wondered who decided that his immediate needs could be met with one tea bag, but might require two condoms.
He completed his sentence at the Beechworth Correctional Centre and, like many who commit white collar crimes, was not seen by many other inmates as a ‘real criminal’.
This is an easy read filled with extraordinary honesty about his own shortcomings in an earlier life, and descriptions of some of the unusual and sometimes frightening characters he encountered as inmates and those running the prison system in Victoria.
Wil’s determination to maintain a relationship with his young son shone through. And I was fascinated to learn why Vegemite is considered a contraband item in the prison system.
Following his release, he has built a new life working in the funeral industry where his penal experience has helped him deal with people at their most vulnerable.
Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.