Tony Levy Exclusive Interview
A Turnkey or Not?
1. Tell us about your book and why you decided to write it?
It's an autobiography of my twenty -five year career serving in Her Majesty's Prison Service. A warts and all revelation of what really goes on behind the closed door of the UK's penal establishments. The book charts my early career from 4 July 1993 until my subsequent disillusionment of the service and my eventual early retirement.
A chance meeting on holiday in Majorca changed my life forever and launched me into a 25 year career in a job that I never would have considered previously: working in Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
This book catalogues my personal experiences of working as a prison officer, from my early days at high security HMP Pentonville to my final years in therapy-based HMP Grendon. Filled with interesting observations and incidences, hilarious wind-ups and memorable characters, this autobiography is the story of a journey, from the happiest days in what will always be a potentially volatile environment to a complete state of disillusionment as an old dinosaur that no longer fitted into the modern prison service world.
The book is filled with amusing incidents and anecdotes in my early days through my promotions, running the London Marathon, meeting my wife until my complete disillusionment of how our prison service is being run.
You meet the characters that made our jobs more bearable, until their demise through political correctness gone mad.
How decisions at the top were made and changed at a moment’s notice to fulfil the ambitions of our politicians.
I give an honest account of my feelings, as someone who would never be a yes man and toe the party line, in the face of a constantly changing environment that had become increasingly controlled by political correctness gone mad and by budgetary needs rather than human needs.
I am a man who cared, and even though my heart was sucked out of my job, I never lost my dignity or respect. Most importantly, I would never allow myself to be reduced to just a turnkey.
Until I could take no more taking early retirement from a job I loved, my heart sucked out and my ambitions in tatters.
The book will make you smile and laugh and then cry and feel how I did, but then with renewed hope as I left to start a new life. As I state early in my book I was fed up with the press, TV, radio, and the politicians portraying prison officer and the prison service always in a negative light, and I had always said I would write a book and tell the truth, but never did. Then there was a (I think) Linda LaPlant thriller on the TV about a prison that was so way off reality that it made me so angry I was fuming. The next day at work I was still fuming and one of my colleagues said to me that I should write my book. I had previously said I would write a book about my time in the service. So I started to write it from this moment
2. What did you learn about people during your time serving in the UK prison system?
Never to be surprised by them or their behaviour. I have seen good people, bad people, downright evil people, good and kind people all of whom have a heart and a soul but they choice how to use their own ways and control their own conscience.
3. Do you believe that everyone has the capacity to be good and pick themselves back up after making bad decisions?
I do believe that everybody can be good and pick themselves up, however society be it over here in the UK or in the USA does not always allow them to be reintegrated back into the society they have offended. Nor does that society provide any help for the individual to achieve their reintegration
4. How has working in the prison system changed you as a person?
My wife would say that it has made me a harder person, but I would say that I have lost my innocence view of life. I see kids playing in a park and if I also see a man alone I immediately think the worst. I walk along the street and view certain people as direct threats to my safety and well being. Like I say innocence, I am suspicious of most people and their motives. However I am also passionate about politics and politician’s making decisions about crime and criminals for their own benefit and not that of society.
5. What do you want people to take away from your book?
Prison Officer are just ordinary people doing an extraordinary job that many people could not do. We are not there as an easy target for anybody that wants to have a verbal go at us; we are not allowed to defend ourselves. Would you want to work with the dregs of society and still be ostracised for whatever you do? Wow.
6. What is next for you?
I have started a new book it will be an honest reflection of what I see and hear on a day to day basis during my working day. Based on my present employment at Heathrow Airport as a Security Guard. The book will be in three parts Passengers, Workers and Management each chapter will be a complete story in itself, and I hope I do not offend too many people with my truthful stories of their behaviour.