In 2003, the Guardian hired a new prisons correspondent – with a surprising CV. Eric Allison was a self-confessed career criminal who had once escaped from Strangeways. He was also passionate about ensuring people knew what was happening behind the heavy, secure doors of British prisons.
The Guardian’s North of England editor, Helen Pidd, explains to Nosheen Iqbal how Allison – who died this year – began stealing at a young age and continued his career as a forger. It wasn’t until he was 60 that he spotted an advert in the Guardian and turned his attention to journalism.
For the Guardian feature writer Simon Hattenstone, Allison’s experiences in prisons and young offender institutions meant he had a unique perspective on the system, and he dedicated himself to uncovering abuses and miscarriages of justice. The only prisons correspondent in the country, Allison collaborated with Hattenstone to produce award-winning investigations that changed the way prisoners were treated.
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