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Inspiring People

Show Me the Prisoner

Show Me the Prisoner

by Patricia Farren

A book with a difference that looks at the life of Charlie Conlon, a prisoner who was failed by society.

"The prison authorities constructed a specially fortified cell to contain this 17-stone flesh-biting inmate... all the furniture in his cell had to be bolted to the floor. Prison officers would only approach in teams of four, kitted out in riot helmets and wearing protective clothing, including steel mesh gloves. In case he bites."

Ulster's most feared prisoner

Show Me the Prisoner is written from the perspective of a prison teacher and covers a 15-year period of involvement in two of Northern Ireland's prisons. They met in prison where she taught classes. Now estranged from his family, the young man had spent most of his life either in care or in one prison or another. She set out to help him. He achieved a university place. Time done, he could move on. But was it all too good to be true? Headlines branded him "Ulster's most feared prisoner", predicting that one day Charlie Conlon would kill somebody. "Hannibal", they dubbed him. Convinced he was the victim of institutional racism and sectarianism, Charlie believed he was guilty only of the rage of the powerless and the downtrodden. Witnessing how the system treated him, did he have a point?

Looking to the past for answers

A meeting with his mother and brother and an internet search for relatives in the USA threw interesting new light on his father's tour in Vietnam. It was then that his mother became evasive. On her deathbed mother and son were reconciled, and for the first time Charlie learned his true identity. But was it all too late?

Why I wrote this book

""I wrote this book to give expression not only to a voiceless and enraged young man, failed by an indifferent system, the victim of poverty, racism, sectarianism and institutionalisation, but to his family, his fellow inmates, and those who thought they were helping," says Patricia behind her motivation for Show Me the Prisoner.

About the author

PATRICIA FARREN is a cancer survivor, mother to 4 adult children and wife of Sean Farren, former minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly. She has served on a number of public bodies, including the Board of Visitors of Maghaberry prison.

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