Challenging the ideology of treatment in the prison world
The Professional Convict’s Tale: The Survival of John O’Neill In and Out of Prison offers a unique, inside view of life behind bars in the 1960s. Elmer H. Johnson, a criminologist who has specialized in prison life for half a century, gave Menard Penitentiary parolee John O’Neill a tape recorder and a set of questions designed to draw out his opinions and observations about the prison world.
This study frames O’Neill’s responses with Johnson’s analysis. O’Neill’s narrative guides readers through the world beyond the prison gate as he shares his strategies for survival and proposes alternatives to rebellion or submission. He discusses the fractionalization between the keepers and the kept and the effects that subterranean communication, threats of inmate predators, and prison riots can have on the psyche of both inmates and staff.
O’Neill’s frustrations and the inadequate responses from the community to which he was paroled illustrate the social costs and impact of parole for the community and for the parolee. Although O’Neill recorded his comments more than forty years ago, they are still relevant today when thousands of convicts are being released from prison each year.