Second Chance: Women Behind Bars

by Holly Clayton
Trafford Publishing

"Life is not always fair, but we live it one day at a time and have faith that things will get better."

Ironically Second Chance is about a woman, Mary, who didn't get one. On the contrary, she was tormented and betrayed by the legal justice system and thrust unfairly into a merciless prison economy that knew no bounds. While there is very little as far as plot development, Clayton's narrative takes a stand against injustice. In fact, there are numerous elements that readers can relate to. While Mary's desperation to leave prison and return to her family is apparent throughout, the portrayal of life inside the prison cells is astonishing and, to a greater degree, disturbing. For example, the story states that a total of five showers were provided for 86 inmates. In Clayton's own words, "Inmates would fuss, fight, cuss, hollow, and complain. It was like an animal zoo! Out of control!"

George and Mary, a couple for thirty years, run their own day care business. Despite undergoing training and following proper protocol, Mary, 51, is sentenced to four years for tax fraud and evading the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). What ensues is a series of mistakes and negligence, from the attorney to the caseworker that leaves Mary in her self-proclaimed hell hole.

The image of a 5x8 prison box with no windows and no conversation lends to the idea that this individual is a danger to society; whoever is staying in this cell must be a murderer or have had violent episodes in the past. However, an individual who, after taking her attorney's advice, is in what is essentially solitary confinement demonstrates how the justice system allows people to slip through the cracks all the time. Second Chance is interesting because it comes at a time when seemingly every week, the legal system exonerates an innocent prisoner after unfairly depriving them of years of their life. Mary questions whether a judge or any legal body should have so much power that they basically play God in an individual's life.

In the prisons, the politics and manipulation take a toll on Mary's health, while on the outside, her family, particularly George, is in poor health, and impatiently await her return into their lives. Overall, the message of the story is powerful and genuine, making the novel a meaningful read.

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