‘I sentence you to three and a half years,’ bellowed the immaculately well-kept Judge Bolan … ‘Thank you VERY much Judge Bolan, ya sanctimonious prick’ were the words that came flooding into my mind as the walls of Court 5 came closing in on top of me ... but who was I kidding?
So begins Gary Cunningham’s remarkable memoir about his time in Mountjoy Prison. Occasionally harrowing but more often extremely funny, Joys of Joy offers a searingly honest account of Gary’s experiences as a prisoner. Raised in a stable, middle class family, Gary had never been in trouble before an alcohol and drug problem led to a stupid mistake that was his downfall. As Gary says in his Preface:
'I will take you inside one of Ireland’s most famous jails and guide you through what was one of the most frightening, exciting rollercoaster rides I have ever embarked on. In no way will I try to glorify prison life, nor will I regale you with tales of bloodshed and torture. This is just my honest account of how getting myself in serious trouble with the law and ending up in Mountjoy, and subsequently Loughan House, was a truly life changing experience for me.'
Little did Gary know when he went through the prison gates as a terrified first-timer that inside those walls he would create a successful rock band, win two writing competitions, form the first Prisoners’ Committee in Ireland and meet some of the most remarkable people – prisoners and staff alike – who would literally save his life.