Snakes and Ladders: A Memoir won the 2014 Varuna Publishers’ Introduction Program and is currently in development.
This is what you’ll be reading when it’s published:
I used to be a heroin addict, criminal and all round notnicegirl.
In 1996 I got out of prison for a drug-fuelled crime and promised myself I’d never go back, in 2010 I broke that promise after going to the police as a victim and finding out I hadn’t followed up paperwork from the first time. After getting off drugs, I left the worlds of crime and addiction behind and went to University. Seven years, two degrees and a lifetime later, I forgot to look right as I crossed a road and was hit by a Postie on her motorbike. When the police came to take my statement they arrested me for an outstanding warrant for time I hadn’t served back in the ’90s. I’d just graduated with first class honours, my life was going great – then I was wearing prison greens, being strip searched and locked in observation cells ‘for my own protection’.
I went mad and then got better, and while doing so wrote this book.
Snakes and Ladders is the story of the six weeks I spent in prison, the following ten months on home detention and the first shaky steps of recovering from this. In telling this story, I weave vignettes and memories from my early life that expose the stereotypical but still oh-so-common lifestyle ‘complications’ that led to the original crime. But I also explore the people and situations that allowed me to break free from a life that was going nowhere.
Snakes and Ladders looks at prison in NSW from both inside and outside, showing what it’s like to get caught up in the system again after thirteen years of fighting to escape the sticky traps of disadvantage. It breaks out of the walls of the prisons and explores the paths that led to my original crime – an abusive childhood, struggles with addiction and unhealthy forms of sex work.
This compelling story of accountability, tragedy and redemption shows the reality of contemporary women’s prisons. It takes you inside four different prisons: the maximum security Mulawa Women’s Correctional Centre in Sydney, the two medium security prisons at Berrima and Emu Plains, and the DIY lock up which is Home Detention.
‘It’s all a game, you know, a stupid power game which only works cause we play along,’ I write in Chapter 2. This book is about how I worked out the rules of the game and found a way to follow them in body and break them in mind.