It is not often that a convicted murderer and high school dropout completes a postgraduate degree (and begins their doctorate) in prison.
Not only was Dr Paul Wood the first inmate to achieve this distinction in New Zealand, on release he carved a career in consultancy out of his training in psychology – and now he has written this fascinating and instructive story of his journey to self-awareness and ethical understanding.
Large parts of How to Escape From Prison read as a valuable prison memoir relating his time in Rimutaka, Paremoremo and Mt Crawford prisons (1996-2006).
Carefully constructed to show his personal development within his prison experiences, each chapter is introduced by a brief section of generalised advice to help others overcome their own mental prisons. …
The power of this story lies in the older and wiser man relating the uncontrollable behaviour of his younger self. It is hard to identify specific turning points on his journey, but Wood clearly places importance on little acts of kindness and trust from prison visitors, family and a select number of fellow inmates and prison staff, especially those who encouraged his education within the distractions and violence of prison life: little beacons that appear all the brighter in the surrounding darkness. There is good fodder here for advocates of rehabilitation.
The story is written simply, without pretension and its practical pieces of advice – including its “Five Steps to Freedom” – can be applied in many situations to aid positive thinking and self-improvement, but these would be much less powerful did they not appear alongside the example of Wood’s highly inspiring transformation.
Great to read about how some who fall off the tracks do manage to turn their lives around. Hopefully his book can be of help to many more.