The incarceration rate in the United States is the highest of any developed nation, with a prison population of approximately 2.3 million in 2016. Over 700,000 prisoners are released each year, and most face significant educational, economic, and social disadvantages. In After Prison, sociologist David Harding and criminologist Heather Harris provide a comprehensive account of young men’s experiences of reentry and reintegration in the era of mass incarceration. They focus on the unique challenges faced by 1,300 black and white youth aged 18 to 25 who were released from Michigan prisons in 2003, investigating the lives of those who achieved some measure of success after leaving prison as well as those who struggled with the challenges of creating new lives for themselves.
The transition to young adulthood typically includes school completion, full-time employment, leaving the childhood home, marriage, and childbearing, events that are disrupted by incarceration. While one quarter of the young men who participated in the study successfully transitioned into adulthood—achieving employment and residential independence and avoiding arrest and incarceration—the same number of young men remained deeply involved with the criminal justice system, spending on average four out of the seven years after their initial release re-incarcerated. Not surprisingly, whites are more likely to experience success after prison. The authors attribute this racial disparity to the increased stigma of criminal records for blacks, racial discrimination, and differing levels of social network support that connect whites to higher quality jobs. Black men earn less than white men, are more concentrated in industries characterized by low wages and job insecurity, and are less likely to remain employed once they have a job.
The authors demonstrate that families, social networks, neighborhoods, and labor market, educational, and criminal justice institutions can have a profound impact on young people’s lives. Their research indicates that residential stability is key to the transition to adulthood. Harding and Harris make the case for helping families, municipalities, and non-profit organizations provide formerly incarcerated young people access to long-term supportive housing and public housing. A remarkably large number of men in this study eventually enrolled in college, reflecting the growing recognition of college as a gateway to living wage work. But the young men in the study spent only brief spells in college, and the majority failed to earn degrees. They were most likely to enroll in community colleges, trade schools, and for-profit institutions, suggesting that interventions focused on these kinds of schools are more likely to be effective. The authors suggest that, in addition to helping students find employment, educational institutions can aid reentry efforts for the formerly incarcerated by providing supports like childcare and paid apprenticeships.
After Prison offers a set of targeted policy interventions to improve these young people’s chances: lifting restrictions on federal financial aid for education, encouraging criminal record sealing and expungement, and reducing the use of incarceration in response to technical parole violations. This book will be an important contribution to the fields of scholarly work on the criminal justice system and disconnected youth.
This illustrated collection of annotated newspaper articles and memorials by Dorothea Dix provides a forum for the great mid-nineteenth-century humanitarian and reformer to speak for herself.
Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802–87) was perhaps the most famous and admired woman in America for much of the nineteenth century. Beginning in the early 1840s, she launched a personal crusade to persuade the various states to provide humane care and effective treatment for the mentally ill by funding specialized hospitals for that purpose. The appalling conditions endured by most mentally ill inmates in prisons, jails, and poorhouses led her to take an active interest also in prison reform and in efforts to ameliorate poverty.
In 1846–47 Dix brought her crusade to Illinois. She presented two lengthy memorials to the legislature, the first describing conditions at the state penitentiary at Alton and the second discussing the sufferings of the insane and urging the establishment of a state hospital for their care. She also wrote a series of newspaper articles detailing conditions in the jails and poorhouses of many Illinois communities.
These long-forgotten documents, which appear in unabridged form in this book, contain a wealth of information on the living conditions of some of the most unfortunate inhabitants of Illinois. In his preface, David L. Lightner describes some of the vivid images that emerge from Dorothea Dix's descriptions of social conditions in Illinois a century and a half ago: "A helpless maniac confined throughout the bitter cold of winter to a dark and filthy pit. Prison inmates chained in hallways and cellars because no more men can be squeezed into the dank and airless cells. Aged paupers auctioned off by county officers to whoever will maintain them at the lowest cost."
Lightner provides an introduction to every document, placing each memorial and newspaper article in its proper social and historical context. He also furnishes detailed notes, making these documents readily accessible to readers a century and a half later. In his final chapter, Lightner assesses both the immediate and the continuing impact of Dix's work.
“From the upper bunk where I write, a narrow window allows me a southern exposure of the desert beyond this prison. Saguaro cacti, residents here long before this rude concrete pueblo, fill the upper part of my frame. If I could open the window and reach out across the razed ground, sand traps, and shining perimeter fence, I might touch their fluted sides, their glaucous and waxen skins.”
For some people, even prison cannot shut out the natural world.
A teacher and family man incarcerated in Arizona State Prison—the result of a transgression that would cost him a dozen years of his life—Ken Lamberton can see beyond his desert walls. In essays that focus on the natural history of the region and on his own personal experiences with desert places, the author of the Burroughs Medal-winning book Wilderness and Razor Wire takes readers along as he revisits the Southwest he knew when he was free, and as he makes an inner journey toward self-awareness. Whether considering the seemingly eternal cacti or the desolate beauty of the Pinacate, he draws on sharp powers of observation to re-create what lies beyond his six-by-eight cell and to contemplate the thoughts that haunt his mind as tenaciously as the kissing bugs that haunt his sleep.
Ranging from prehistoric ruins on the Colorado Plateau to the shores of the Sea of Cortez, these writings were begun before Wilderness and Razor Wire and serve as a prequel to it. They seamlessly interweave natural and personal history as Lamberton explores caves, canyons, and dry ponds, evoking the mysteries and rhythms of desert life that elude even the most careful observers. He offers new ways of thinking about how we relate to the natural world, and about the links between those relationships and the ones we forge with other people. With the assurance of a gifted writer, he seeks to make sense of his own place in life, crafting words to come to terms with an insanity of his own making, to look inside himself and understand his passions and flaws.
Whether considering rattlesnakes of the hellish summer desert or the fellow inmates of his own personal hell, Lamberton finds meaningful connections—to his crime and his place, to the people who remained in his life and those who didn’t. But what he reveals in Beyond Desert Walls ultimately arises from language itself: a deep, and perhaps even frightening, understanding of a singular human nature.
In his masterpiece The Cat Who Taught Me How to Fly, Hashem Gharaibeh tells the moving story of a political prisoner during Jordan’s martial law era, which spanned from 1967 to 1989. Gharaibeh defies the taboos of politics, sex, and religion to tell a thrilling and brutally honest story about the horrors and insanities of everyday life in an Arab prison. At once both a novel and an autobiography, the author draws from his own experiences as a Jordanian youth arrested and imprisoned for nearly a decade for his affiliation with the Jordanian Communist Party. The novel uniquely portrays prison culture intertwined with tribal, ideological, and political perspectives to explain both mundane and esoteric aspects of prison life in this time and era, illustrating an experience that is traumatic, humane, and inspiring. A heartwrenching story of learning, survival, and the quest for the freedom of thought is told with powerful defiance and grace, exposing us to human frailty, strength, and one man’s dream to soar beyond the walls of prison, society, and self.
Over the years, American colleges and universities have made various efforts to provide prisoners with access to education. However, few of these outreach programs presume that incarcerated men and women can rise to the challenge of a truly rigorous college curriculum. The Bard Prison Initiative is different.
College in Prison chronicles how, since 2001, Bard College has provided hundreds of incarcerated men and women across the country access to a high-quality liberal arts education. Earning degrees in subjects ranging from Mandarin to advanced mathematics, graduates have, upon release, gone on to rewarding careers and elite graduate and professional programs. Yet this is more than just a story of exceptional individuals triumphing against the odds. It is a study in how the liberal arts can alter the landscape of some of our most important public institutions giving people from all walks of life a chance to enrich their minds and expand their opportunities.
Drawing on fifteen years of experience as a director of and teacher within the Bard Prison Initiative, Daniel Karpowitz tells the story of BPI’s development from a small pilot project to a nationwide network. At the same time, he recounts dramatic scenes from in and around college-in-prison classrooms pinpointing the contested meanings that emerge in moments of highly-charged reading, writing, and public speaking. Through examining the transformative encounter between two characteristically American institutions—the undergraduate college and the modern penitentiary—College in Prison makes a powerful case for why liberal arts education is still vital to the future of democracy in the United States.
Prediction and Classification: Criminal Justice Decision Making, a collection of commissioned essays by distinguished international scholars, is the ninth volume in the Crime and Justice series. Like its predecessors, Prediction and Classification is essential reading for scholars and researchers seeking a unified source of knowledge about crime, its causes, and its cure.
Sex is usually assumed to be a closely guarded secret of prison life. But it has long been the subject of intense scrutiny by both prison administrators and reformers—as well as a source of fascination and anxiety for the American public. Historically, sex behind bars has evoked radically different responses from professionals and the public alike. In Criminal Intimacy, Regina Kunzel tracks these varying interpretations and reveals their foundational influence on modern thinking about sexuality and identity.
Historians have held the fusion of sexual desire and identity to be the defining marker of sexual modernity, but sex behind bars, often involving otherwise heterosexual prisoners, calls those assumptions into question. By exploring the sexual lives of prisoners and the sexual culture of prisons over the past two centuries—along with the impact of a range of issues, including race, class, and gender; sexual violence; prisoners’ rights activism; and the HIV epidemic—Kunzel discovers a world whose surprising plurality and mutability reveals the fissures and fault lines beneath modern sexuality itself.
Drawing on a wide range of sources, including physicians, psychiatrists, sociologists, correctional administrators, journalists, and prisoners themselves—as well as depictions of prison life in popular culture—Kunzel argues for the importance of the prison to the history of sexuality and for the centrality of ideas about sex and sexuality to the modern prison. In the process, she deepens and complicates our understanding of sexuality in America.
Ever since he was asked to critique the poetry of a convicted murderer, he has lived in two worlds.
Richard Shelton was a young English professor in 1970 when a convict named Charles Schmid—a serial killer dubbed the “Pied Piper of Tucson” in national magazines—shared his brooding verse. But for Shelton, the novelty of meeting a death-row monster became a thirty-year commitment to helping prisoners express themselves. Shelton began organizing creative writing workshops behind bars, and in this gritty memoir he offers up a chronicle of reaching out to forgotten men and women—and of creativity blossoming in a repressive environment. He tells of published students such as Paul Ashley, Greg Forker, Ken Lamberton, and Jimmy Santiago Baca who have made names for themselves through their writing instead of their crimes. Shelton also recounts the bittersweet triumph of seeing work published by men who later met with agonizing deaths, and the despair of seeing the creative strides of inmates broken by politically motivated transfers to private prisons. And his memoir bristles with hard-edged experiences, ranging from inside knowledge of prison breaks to a workshop conducted while a riot raged outside a barricaded door. Reflecting on his decision to tutor Schmid, Shelton sees that the choice “has led me through bloody tragedies and terrible disappointments to a better understanding of what it means to be human.”
Crossing the Yard is a rare story of professional fulfillment—and a testament to the transformative power of writing.
The incarcerated in America's cultural imagination.
The Cultural Prison brings a new dimension to the study of prisoners and punishment by focusing on how the punishment of American offenders is represented and shaped in the mass media through public arguments. The study is based on an analysis of 642 articles collected by the author from American popular journals and magazines, as well as newspaper accounts, films, and public speeches, spanning the years 1950 to 1992. By piecing together and studying these popular narratives, he divides the history of prisoners and punishment into four eras, each marked by a shift in value system. He argues that the discourse, or rhetoric, surrounding prisoners and punishment on the public level works as a historical force that shapes contemporary culture.
The author is concerned that the public seems to have an inability or unwillingness to question or resist cultural definitions of normalcy and legal behavior. He explains that ideally moral behavior should be a matter of public debate rather than of unquestioned perpetuation, and he urges increased understanding of institutional and cultural discipline and our questioning the ways in which the constitution of punishment and prisoners influences us culturally.
The"cultural prison" refers to the way in which this study acts as an investigation of "the discipline of discipline"; it is an examination of the way in which discipline is shaped and formed in public discourse. The volume concludes with a fascinating account of the move to electronic means of surveillance; coupled with the representations of the prisoner along the lines of race and gender, it explains what these new techniques mean to contemporary culture.
For incarcerated fathers, prison rather than work mediates access to their families. Prison rules and staff regulate phone privileges, access to writing materials, and visits. Perhaps even more important are the ways in which the penal system shapes men’s gender performances. Incarcerated men must negotiate how they will enact violence and aggression, both in terms of the expectations placed upon inmates by the prison system and in terms of their own responses to these expectations. Additionally, the relationships between incarcerated men and the mothers of their children change, particularly since women now serve as “gatekeepers” who control when and how they contact their children. This book considers how those within the prison system negotiate their expectations about “real” men and “good” fathers, how prisoners negotiate their relationships with those outside of prison, and in what ways this negotiation reflects their understanding of masculinity.
Essays in this volume illustrate how shows such as Orange Is the New Black and Oz impact the public’s perception of crime rates, the criminal justice system, and imprisonment. Contributors look at prison wives on reality television series, portrayals of death row, breastfeeding while in prison, transgender prisoners, and black masculinity. They also examine the ways in which media messages ignore an individual’s struggle against an all too frequently biased system and instead dehumanize the incarcerated as violent and overwhelmingly masculine. Together these essays argue media reform is necessary for penal reform, proposing that more accurate media representations of prison life could improve public support for programs dealing with poverty, abuse, and drug addiction—factors that increase the likelihood of criminal activity and incarceration.
Scholars from cultural and critical studies, feminist studies, queer studies, African American studies, media studies, sociology, and psychology offer critical analysis of media depictions of prison, bridging the media’s portrayals of incarcerated lives with actual experiences and bringing to light forgotten voices in prison narratives.
By quadrupling the number of people behind bars in two decades, the United States has become the world leader in incarceration. Much has been written on the men who make up the vast majority of the nation’s two million inmates. But what of the women they leave behind? Doing Time Together vividly details the ways that prisons shape and infiltrate the lives of women with husbands, fiancés, and boyfriends on the inside.
Megan Comfort spent years getting to know women visiting men at San Quentin State Prison, observing how their romantic relationships drew them into contact with the penitentiary. Tangling with the prison’s intrusive scrutiny and rigid rules turns these women into “quasi-inmates,” eroding the boundary between home and prison and altering their sense of intimacy, love, and justice. Yet Comfort also finds that with social welfare weakened, prisons are the most powerful public institutions available to women struggling to overcome untreated social ills and sustain relationships with marginalized men. As a result, they express great ambivalence about the prison and the control it exerts over their daily lives.
An illuminating analysis of women caught in the shadow of America’s massive prison system, Comfort’s book will be essential for anyone concerned with the consequences of our punitive culture.
Winner, Coalition for Community Writing Outstanding Book Award 2019
Doing Time, Writing Lives offers a much-needed analysis of the teaching of college writing in U.S. prisons, a racialized space that—despite housing more than 2 million people—remains nearly invisible to the general public. Through the examination of a college-in-prison program that promotes the belief that higher education in prison can reduce recidivism and improve life prospects for the incarcerated and their families, author Patrick W. Berry exposes not only incarcerated students’ hopes and dreams for their futures but also their anxieties about whether education will help them.
Combining case studies and interviews with the author’s own personal experience of teaching writing in prison, this book chronicles the attempts of incarcerated students to write themselves back into a society that has erased their lived histories. It challenges polarizing rhetoric often used to describe what literacy can and cannot deliver, suggesting more nuanced and ethical ways of understanding literacy and possibility in an age of mass incarceration.
"The HIV+ men incarcerated in Limestone Prison's Dorm 16 were put there to be forgotten. Not only do Benjamin Fleury-Steiner and Carla Crowder bring these men to life, Fleury-Steiner and Crowder also insist on placing these men in the middle of critical conversations about health policy, mass incarceration, and race. Dense with firsthand accounts, Dying Inside is a nimble, far-ranging and unblinking look at the cruelty inherent in our current penal policies."
---Lisa Kung, Director, Southern Center for Human Rights
"The looming prison health crisis, documented here at its extreme, is a shocking stain on American values and a clear opportunity to rethink our carceral approach to security."
---Jonathan Simon, University of California, Berkeley
"Dying Inside is a riveting account of a health crisis in a hidden prison facility."
---Michael Musheno, San Francisco State University, and coauthor of Deployed
"This fresh and original study should prick all of our consciences about the horrific consequences of the massive carceral state the United States has built over the last three decades."
---Marie Gottschalk, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Prison and the Gallows
"An important, bold, and humanitarian book."
---Alison Liebling, University of Cambridge
"Fleury-Steiner makes a compelling case that inmate health care in America's prisons and jails has reached the point of catastrophe."
---Sharon Dolovich, University of California, Los Angeles
"Fleury-Steiner's persuasive argument not only exposes the sins of commission and omission on prison cellblocks, but also does an excellent job of showing how these problems are the natural result of our nation's shortsighted and punitive criminal justice policy."
---Allen Hornblum, Temple University, and author of Sentenced to Science
Dying Inside brings the reader face-to-face with the nightmarish conditions inside Limestone Prison's Dorm 16---the segregated HIV ward. Here, patients chained to beds share their space with insects and vermin in the filthy, drafty rooms, and contagious diseases spread like wildfire through a population with untreated---or poorly managed at best---HIV.
While Dorm 16 is a particularly horrific human rights tragedy, it is also a symptom of a disease afflicting the entire U.S. prison system. In recent decades, prison populations have exploded as Americans made mass incarceration the solution to crime, drugs, and other social problems even as privatization of prison services, especially health care, resulted in an overcrowded, underfunded system in which the most marginalized members of our society slowly wither from what the author calls "lethal abandonment."
This eye-opening account of one prison's failed health-care standards is a wake-up call, asking us to examine how we treat our forgotten citizens and compelling us to rethink the American prison system in this increasingly punitive age.
It was one of the biggest crime stories of the decade—two deadly killers, desperate and on the run. After months of planning, Ricky Matt and David Sweat cut, chopped, coerced, and connived their way out of a maximum-security prison in the wilderness of upstate New York and managed to elude police for three weeks, sending the region into lockdown and keeping the entire country on edge. The media called it “a bold escape for the ages,” and veteran true-crime writer Michael Benson leads us along the story’s every wild path to dig out a tale of adventure, psychology, sex, and brutality. Escape from Dannemora examines the strange case of Joyce Mitchell, the long-time prison employee who had a sexual relationship with at least one of the killers, and who smuggled them tools and aided in the escape, while they cooked up a plan to kill her husband. In the end, Benson looks closely at conditions at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY, a crumbling Gothic pile now under investigation for charges of drug trafficking and brutality.
When a woman leaves prison, she enters a world of competing messages and conflicting advice. Staff from prison, friends, family members, workers at halfway houses and treatment programs all have something to say about who she is, who she should be, and what she should do. The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma offers an in-depth, firsthand look at how the former prisoner manages messages about returning to the community.
Over the course of a year, Andrea Leverentz conducted repeated interviews with forty-nine women as they adjusted to life outside of prison and worked to construct new ideas of themselves as former prisoners and as mothers, daughters, sisters, romantic partners, friends, students, and workers. Listening to these women, along with their family members, friends, and co-workers, Leverentz pieces together the narratives they have created to explain their past records and guide their future behavior. She traces where these narratives came from and how they were shaped by factors such as gender, race, maternal status, age, and experiences in prison, halfway houses, and twelve-step programs—factors that in turn shaped the women’s expectations for themselves, and others’ expectations of them. The women’s stories form a powerful picture of the complex, complicated human experience behind dry statistics and policy statements regarding prisoner reentry into society for women, how the experience is different for men and the influence society plays.
With its unique view of how society’s mixed messages play out in ex-prisoners’ lived realities, The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma shows the complexity of these women’s experiences within the broad context of the war on drugs and mass incarceration in America. It offers invaluable lessons for helping such women successfully rejoin society.
More than two million people are currently imprisoned in the United States, and the nation’s incarceration rate is now the highest in the world. The dramatic rise and consolidation of America’s prison system has devastated lives and communities. But it has also transformed prisons into primary sites of radical political discourse and resistance as they have become home to a growing number of writers, activists, poets, educators, and other intellectuals who offer radical critiques of American society both within and beyond the prison walls.
In Forced Passages, Dylan Rodríguez argues that the cultural production of such imprisoned intellectuals as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Angela Davis, Leonard Peltier, George Jackson, José Solis Jordan, Ramsey Muniz, Viet Mike Ngo, and Marilyn Buck should be understood as a social and intellectual movement in and of itself, unique in context and substance. Rodríguez engages with a wide range of texts, including correspondence, memoirs, essays, poetry, communiqués, visual art, and legal writing, drawing on published works by widely recognized figures and by individuals outside the public’s field of political vision or concern. Throughout, Rodríguez focuses on the conditions under which imprisoned intellectuals live and work, and he explores how incarceration shapes the ways in which insurgent knowledge is created, disseminated, and received.
More than a series of close readings of prison literature, Forced Passages identifies and traces the discrete lineage of radical prison thought since the 1970s, one formed by the logic of state violence and by the endemic racism of the criminal justice system.
Dylan Rodríguez is assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Riverside.
At 2.26 million, incarcerated Americans not only outnumber the nation’s fourth-largest city, they make up a national constituency bound by a shared condition. Fourth City: Essays from the Prison in America presents more than seventy essays from twenty-seven states, written by incarcerated Americans chronicling their experience inside. In essays as moving as they are eloquent, the authors speak out against a national prison complex that fails so badly at the task of rehabilitation that 60% of the 650,000 Americans released each year return to prison. These essays document the authors’ efforts at self-help, the institutional resistance such efforts meet at nearly every turn, and the impact, in money and lives, that this resistance has on the public. Directly confronting the images of prisons and prisoners manufactured by popular media, so-called reality TV, and for-profit local and national news sources, Fourth City recognizes American prisoners as our primary, frontline witnesses to the dysfunction of the largest prison system on earth. Filled with deeply personal stories of coping, survival, resistance, and transformation, Fourth City should be read by every American who believes that law should achieve order in the cause of justice rather than at its cost.
During the 1970s in the United States, hundreds of feminist, queer, and antiracist activists were imprisoned or became fugitives as they fought the changing contours of U.S. imperialism, global capitalism, and a repressive racial state. In Fugitive Life Stephen Dillon examines these activists' communiqués, films, memoirs, prison writing, and poetry to highlight the centrality of gender and sexuality to a mode of racialized power called the neoliberal-carceral state. Drawing on writings by Angela Davis, the George Jackson Brigade, Assata Shakur, the Weather Underground, and others, Dillon shows how these activists were among the first to theorize and make visible the links between conservative "law and order" rhetoric, free market ideology, incarceration, sexism, and the continued legacies of slavery. Dillon theorizes these prisoners and fugitives as queer figures who occupied a unique position from which to highlight how neoliberalism depended upon racialized mass incarceration. In so doing, he articulates a vision of fugitive freedom in which the work of these activists becomes foundational to undoing the reign of the neoliberal-carceral state.
In the era of mass incarceration, over 600,000 people are released from federal or state prison each year, with many returning to chaotic living environments rife with violence. In these circumstances, how do former prisoners navigate reentering society? In Homeward, sociologist Bruce Western examines the tumultuous first year after release from prison. Drawing from in-depth interviews with over one hundred individuals, he describes the lives of the formerly incarcerated and demonstrates how poverty, racial inequality, and failures of social support trap many in a cycle of vulnerability despite their efforts to rejoin society.
Western and his research team conducted comprehensive interviews with men and women released from the Massachusetts state prison system who returned to neighborhoods around Boston. Western finds that for most, leaving prison is associated with acute material hardship. In the first year after prison, most respondents could not afford their own housing and relied on family support and government programs, with half living in deep poverty. Many struggled with chronic pain, mental illnesses, or addiction—the most important predictor of recidivism. Most respondents were also unemployed. Some older white men found union jobs in the construction industry through their social networks, but many others, particularly those who were black or Latino, were unable to obtain full-time work due to few social connections to good jobs, discrimination, and lack of credentials. Violence was common in their lives, and often preceded their incarceration. In contrast to the stereotype of tough criminals preying upon helpless citizens, Western shows that many former prisoners were themselves subject to lifetimes of violence and abuse and encountered more violence after leaving prison, blurring the line between victims and perpetrators.
Western concludes that boosting the social integration of former prisoners is key to both ameliorating deep disadvantage and strengthening public safety. He advocates policies that increase assistance to those in their first year after prison, including guaranteed housing and health care, drug treatment, and transitional employment. By foregrounding the stories of people struggling against the odds to exit the criminal justice system, Homeward shows how overhauling the process of prisoner reentry and rethinking the foundations of justice policy could address the harms of mass incarceration.
This report assesses the effectiveness of correctional education programs for both incarcerated adults and juveniles and the cost-effectiveness of adult correctional education. It also provides results of a survey of U.S. state correctional education directors that give an up-to-date picture of what correctional education looks like today. Finally, the authors offer recommendations for improving the field of correctional education moving forward.
"I cannot overstate how profoundly my experience with the Prison Creative Arts Project has shaped my life. It began my engagement with prison issues, developed both my passion and my understanding of them, and I continue to draw on both as I seek to contribute to a more rational, humane and just criminal justice system. PCAP prepared me to adapt to any situation, to take risks, to collaborate with people very different from myself in a manner infused with total respect."
---Jesse Jannetta, researcher, Justice Policy Center, the Urban Institute
"PCAP provided me with an emotional education that I would not have received otherwise. PCAP continually opens the doors to the stark reality of our criminal justice system as well as our society's ability to right the wrongs of that system and provide justice to millions of men, women, and children . . . PCAP showed me the power I, and the individuals around me, have to make a difference."
---Anne Bowles, Policy and Outreach Associate, Institute for Higher Education Policy
"PCAP looks beyond past mistakes and personal shortcomings to find the beauty and creative energies that help to heal the hurts we've done to others. They have not forgotten that we are human too! . . . Their program has given me a way to reach people that I would otherwise never reach. For that, I owe PCAP everything. They are my lifeline that I cling to."
---Bryan Picken, incarcerated artist
Prisons are an invisible, but dominant, part of American society: the United States incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world. In Michigan, the number of prisoners rose from 3,000 in 1970 to more than 50,000 by 2008, a shift that Buzz Alexander witnessed firsthand when he came to teach at the University of Michigan.
Is William Martinez Not Our Brother? describes the University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), a pioneering program founded in 1990 that provides university courses, a nonprofit organization, and a national network for incarcerated youth and adults in Michigan juvenile facilities and prisons.
By giving incarcerated individuals an opportunity to participate in the arts, PCAP enables them to withstand and often overcome the conditions and culture of prison, the policies of an incarcerating state, and the consequences of mass incarceration.
Buzz Alexander is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of English Language and Literature, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, at the University of Michigan and was Carnegie National Professor of the Year in 2005.
Ben Langston Ohio University Press, 2020 Library of Congress HV9475.P42S725 2020 | Dewey Decimal 365.92
“Call me what you want—corrections officer, C.O., guard, jailcop, turnkey—I helped keep people there against their will. For this, the jail rewarded me with food.”
When Ben Langston took a job at the State Correctional Institute at Rockview, it was because there were few other options. At his previous job—putting labels on water bottles—he did not have cups of human waste thrown in his face. He did not have to finger sweaty armpits in search of weapons. There were no threats against his life. But the jail paid better.
Jail Speak is a memoir written from a guard’s perspective. It’s about the grind, about dehumanization, drama, punishment, and the cycles of harm perpetrated by the prison industry. It’s about masculinity and conformity and emotional detachment. It’s a look at the inside that you didn’t want to know about, and it’s for mature audiences only. Know your limits.
Daniel Borzutzky University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018
Dewey Decimal 811.6
Finalist for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize
From the author of The Performance of Becoming Human, winner of the National Book Award for poetry
Lake Michigan, a series of 19 lyric poems, imagines a prison camp located on the beaches of a Chicago that is privatized, racially segregated, and overrun by a brutal police force. Thinking about the ways in which economic policy, racism, and militarized policing combine to shape the city, Lake Michigan's poems continue exploring the themes from Borzutzky's Performance of Becoming Human, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry. But while the influences in this book (Césaire, Vallejo, Neruda) are international, the focus here is local as the book takes a hard look at neoliberal urbanism in the historic city of Chicago. Named a 2018 Best Book of the Year by the New York Public Library.
Life after Death Row examines the post-incarceration struggles of individuals who have been wrongly convicted of capital crimes, sentenced to death, and subsequently exonerated.
Saundra D. Westervelt and Kimberly J. Cook present eighteen exonerees’ stories, focusing on three central areas: the invisibility of the innocent after release, the complicity of the justice system in that invisibility, and personal trauma management. Contrary to popular belief, exonerees are not automatically compensated by the state or provided adequate assistance in the transition to post-prison life. With no time and little support, many struggle to find homes, financial security, and community. They have limited or obsolete employment skills and difficulty managing such daily tasks as grocery shopping or banking. They struggle to regain independence, self-sufficiency, and identity.
Drawing upon research on trauma, recovery, coping, and stigma, the authors weave a nuanced fabric of grief, loss, resilience, hope, and meaning to provide the richest account to date of the struggles faced by people striving to reclaim their lives after years of wrongful incarceration.
Asked how the Missouri State Penitentiary compared to other famous prisons, a historian and former prison administrator replied, “ It’s older and meaner.” For 168 years, it was everything other prisons were and more.
In TheMissouri State Penitentiary, Jamie Pamela Rasmussen recounts the long and fascinating history of the place, focusing on the stories of inmates and the struggles by prison officials to provide opportunities for reform while keeping costs down. Tales of prominent prisoners, including Pretty Boy Floyd, Sonny Liston, and James Earl Ray, provide intrigue and insight into the institution’s infamous reputation.
The founding of the penitentiary helped solidify Jefferson City’s position as the state capital. A highlight in the chapter on the Civil War years is the story of George Thompson, who was imprisoned for attempting to help a number of slaves to freedom. The narrative enters the twentieth century with the controversy surrounding the various systems of inmate labor; the effort to make the prison self-supporting eventually caused punishment to be driven by factory needs. The example of Firebug Johnson demonstrates how inmates reacted to the prison labor system while Kate Richards O’Hare’s struggles and efforts to improve conditions in the penitentiary illuminate the role of women in the system at the time. A full chapter is devoted to the riot of 1954, and another concentrates on the reforms made in the wake of that catastrophe. Rasmussen also considers the effect inmate lawsuits during the 1980s and 1990s had on prison life before telling the story of the decision to close the prison.
The Missouri State Penitentiary provides a fitting account of an institution that was part of Missouri’s history for well over a century. Numerous illustrations and a list of recommended reading contribute to the readers’ understanding of the history of the institution.
In 1812, New Hampshire shopkeeper Timothy M. Joy abandoned his young family, fleeing the creditors who threatened to imprison him. Within days, he found himself in a Massachusetts jailhouse, charged with defamation of a prominent politician. During the months of his incarceration, Joy kept a remarkable journal that recounts his personal, anguished path toward spiritual redemption. Martin J. Hershock situates Joy's account in the context of the pugnacious politics of the early republic, giving context to a common citizen's perspective on partisanship and the fate of an unfortunate shopkeeper swept along in the transition to market capitalism.
In addition to this close-up view of an ordinary person's experience of a transformative period, Hershock reflects on his own work as a historian. In the final chapter, he discusses the value of diaries as historical sources, the choices he made in telling Joy's story, alternative interpretations of the diary, and other contexts in which he might have placed Joy's experiences. The appendix reproduces Joy's original journal so that readers can develop their own skills using a primary source.
One of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Best Criminal Justice Books of 2019
America’s high incarceration rates are a well-known facet of contemporary political conversations. Mentioned far less often is what happens to the nearly 700,000 former prisoners who rejoin society each year. On the Outside examines the lives of twenty-two people—varied in race and gender but united by their time in the criminal justice system—as they pass out of the prison gates and back into the world. The book takes a clear-eyed look at the challenges faced by formerly incarcerated citizens as they try to find work, housing, and stable communities. Standing alongside these individual portraits is a quantitative study conducted by the authors that followed every state prisoner in Michigan who was released on parole in 2003 (roughly 11,000 individuals) for the next seven years, providing a comprehensive view of their postprison neighborhoods, families, employment, and contact with the parole system. On the Outside delivers a powerful combination of hard data and personal narrative that shows why our country continues to struggle with the social and economic reintegration of the formerly incarcerated.
Out of the Red is one man’s pathbreaking story of how social forces and personal choices combined to deliver an unfortunate fate. After a childhood of poverty, institutional discrimination, violence, and being thrown away by the public education system, Bolden's life took him through the treacherous landscape of street gangs at the age of fourteen. The Bloods offered a sense of family, protection, excitement, and power. Incarcerated during the Texas prison boom, the teenage former gangster was thrust into a fight for survival as he navigated the perils of adult prison. As mass incarceration and prison gangs swallowed up youth like him, survival meant finding hope in a hopeless situation and carving a path to his own rehabilitation. Despite all odds, he forged a new path through education, ultimately achieving the seemingly impossible for a formerly incarcerated ex-gangbanger.
For more than forty years Bruce Jackson has been documenting—in books, photographs, audio recording, and film—inmates’ lives in American prisons. In November, 1975, he acquired a collection of old ID photos while he was visiting the Cummins Unit, a state prison farm in Arkansas. They are published together for the first time in this remarkable book.
The 121 images that appear here were likely taken between 1915 and 1940. As Jackson describes in an absorbing introduction, the function of these photos was not portraiture—their function was to “fold a person into the controlled space of a dossier.” Here, freed from their prison “jackets,” and printed at sizes far larger than their originals, these one-time ID photos have now become portraits. Jackson’s restoration transforms what were small bureaucratic artifacts into moving images of real men and women.
Pictures from a Drawer also contains an extraordinary description of everyday life at Cummins prison in the 1950s, written originally by hand and presented to Jackson in 1973 by its author, a long-time inmate.
Prison and Social Death
Price, Joshua M Rutgers University Press, 2015 Library of Congress HV9471.P72 2015 | Dewey Decimal 365.6
The United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. To be sentenced to prison is to face systematic violence, humiliation, and, perhaps worst of all, separation from family and community. It is, to borrow Orlando Patterson’s term for the utter isolation of slavery, to suffer “social death.” In Prison and Social Death, Joshua Price exposes the unexamined cost that prisoners pay while incarcerated and after release, drawing upon hundreds of often harrowing interviews conducted with people in prison, parolees, and their families.
Price argues that the prison separates prisoners from desperately needed communities of support from parents, spouses, and children. Moreover, this isolation of people in prison renders them highly vulnerable to other forms of violence, including sexual violence. Price stresses that the violence they face goes beyond physical abuse by prison guards and it involves institutionalized forms of mistreatment, ranging from abysmally poor health care to routine practices that are arguably abusive, such as pat-downs, cavity searches, and the shackling of pregnant women. And social death does not end with prison. The condition is permanent, following people after they are released from prison. Finding housing, employment, receiving social welfare benefits, and regaining voting rights are all hindered by various legal and other hurdles. The mechanisms of social death, Price shows, are also informal and cultural. Ex-prisoners face numerous forms of distrust and are permanently stigmatized by other citizens around them.
A compelling blend of solidarity, civil rights activism, and social research, Prison and Social Death offers a unique look at the American prison and the excessive and unnecessary damage it inflicts on prisoners and parolees.
Alexander Berkman Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress HX843.5.B47 2011 | Dewey Decimal 335.8309748
Published here for the first time is a crucial document in the history of American radicalism—the "Prison Blossoms," a series of essays, narratives, poems, and fables composed by three activist anarchists imprisoned for the 1892 assault on anti-union steel tycoon Henry Clay Frick.
Of the fifty thousand Americans who declared themselves conscientious objectors during World War II, nearly six thousand went to prison, many serving multiyear sentences in federal lockups. Some conscientious objectors, notably Robert Lowell, William Everson, and William Stafford, went on to become important figures in the literary life of their country, while others were participants and teachers in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. This long out-of-print book, reprinted from the rare original 1951 edition, collects firsthand accounts by conscientious objectors who were imprisoned for their beliefs.
Prison Etiquette is illustrated with eleven line drawings by Lowell Naeve.
Don Sabo Temple University Press, 2001 Library of Congress HV6089.P74 2001 | Dewey Decimal 365.60973
This book explores the frightening ways in which our prisons mirror the worst aspects of society-wide gender relations. It is part of the growing research on men and masculinities. The collection is unusual in that it contributions from activists, academics, and prisoners.
The opening section, which features an essay by Angela Davis, focuses on the historical roots of the prison system, cultural practices surrounding gender and punishment, and the current expansion of corrections into the "prison-industrial complex."
The next section examines the dominant or subservient roles that men play in prison and the connections between this hierarchy and male violence. Another section looks at the spectrum of intimate relations behind bars, from rape to friendship, and another at physical and mental health.
The last section is about efforts to reform prisons and prison masculinities, including support groups for men. It features an essay about prospects for post-release success in the community written by a man who, after doing time in Soledad and San Quentin, went on to get a doctorate in counseling.
The contributions from prisoners include an essay on enforced celibacy by Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as fiction and poetry on prison health policy, violence, and intimacy. The creative contributions were selected from the more than 200 submissions received from prisoners.
Despite lethal explosions of violence from within and critical assaults from without, it seems certain that prisons will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. Gordon Hawkins argues that certain key issues which attend the use of imprisonment as a penal method must be dealt with realistically. Beginning with a discussion of the ideology of imprisonment and the principal lines of criticism directed at it, Hawkins examines such issues as the prisonization hypothesis (the theory that prisons serve as a training ground for criminals), the role of the prison guard, work in prisons, and the use of prisoners as research subjects for medical experiments. He also deals with the prisoners' rights movement and its implications for the future of prison administration. Hawkins not only makes specific recommendations for reform, he also carefully appraises the barriers which obstruct their implementation.
"Hawkins devotes a large portion of this relatively short book to a discussion of some of the really crucial policy activities that tend to stifle meaningful reform and then goes on to tell how at least some of these policies can be altered. . . . The book concludes with a chapter devoted to a discussion of impediments to change that should be required reading for all serious students of penology."—Choice
"Hawkins has added a much needed down-to-earch analysis of prison. . . . This is not a pessimistic book. It is a realistic book. It avoids the pitfall of utopian and single-factor solutions to an extremely complex problem."—Graeme R. Newman, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
This collection of the prison memoirs and letters of the first Mormon
convicted of violating the Edmunds Law, which prohibited polygamy, provides
a unique perspective on this period of Utah history. Rudger Clawson (1857-1943)
was a prominent member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
serving as missionary, stake president, apostle, president of the Quorum
of the Twelve Apostles, and counselor in the First Presidency.
His memoirs of three years as a "cohab" in the Utah Territorial
Penitentiary are published here for the first time. They reflect the pride
Mormon polygamists felt at being "prisoners for conscience sake,"
and they include discussions of Mormon doctrines, accounts of daring prison
escapes, details of prison life, and the sense of a husband's frustration
at being separated from his plural wife.
“A history of philosophy in twelve thinkers…The whole performance combines polyglot philological rigor with supple intellectual sympathy, and it is all presented…in a spirit of fun.” —Times Literary Supplement
“If one of philosophy’s crucial tasks is to snap us out of complacency and re-frame the parameters of debate, then there is always scope for a roll call of practitioners who have particularly enjoyed inspiring the ‘moment when the gears shift.’…Geuss, who wears his expansive learning lightly, has interesting things to say about them all.” —Catholic Herald
“Exceptionally engaging…Geuss has a remarkable knack for putting even familiar thinkers in a new light.” —Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Raymond Geuss explores the ideas of twelve philosophers who broke dramatically with prevailing wisdom, from Socrates and Plato in the ancient world to Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Adorno. The result is a striking account of some of the most innovative thinkers in Western history and an indirect manifesto for how to pursue philosophy today. Geuss cautions that philosophers’ attempts to break from convention do not necessarily make the world a better place. Montaigne’s ideas may have been benign, but the fate of those of Hobbes, Hegel, and Nietzsche has been more varied. Yet in the act of provoking people to think differently, philosophers remind us that we are not fated to live within the systems of thought we inherit.
To the Western imagination, Tibet evokes exoticism, mysticism, and wonder: a fabled land removed from the grinding onslaught of modernity, spiritually endowed with all that the West has lost. Originally published in 1998, Prisoners of Shangri-La provided the first cultural history of the strange encounter between Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Donald Lopez reveals here fanciful misconceptions of Tibetan life and religion. He examines, among much else, the politics of the term “Lamaism,” a pejorative synonym for Tibetan Buddhism; the various theosophical, psychedelic, and New Age purposes served by the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead; and the unexpected history of the most famous of all Tibetan mantras, om mani padme hum. More than pop-culture anomalies, these versions of Tibet are often embedded in scholarly sources, constituting an odd union of the popular and the academic, of fancy and fact.
Upon its original publication, Prisoners of Shangri-La sent shockwaves through the field of Tibetan studies—hailed as a timely, provocative, and courageous critique. Twenty years hence, the situation in Tibet has only grown more troubled and complex—with the unrest of 2008, the demolition of the dwellings of thousands of monks and nuns at Larung Gar in 2016, and the scores of self-immolations committed by Tibetans to protest the Dalai Lama’s exile.
In his new preface to this anniversary edition, Lopez returns to the metaphors of prison and paradise to illuminate the state of Tibetan Buddhism—both in exile and in Tibet—as monks and nuns still seek to find a way home. Prisoners of Shangri-La remains a timely and vital inquiry into Western fantasies of Tibet.
Prisoners of Shangri-La is a provocative analysis of the romance of Tibet, a romance that, even as it is invoked by Tibetan lamas living in exile, ultimately imprisons those who seek the goal of Tibetan independence from Chinese occupation.
"Lopez lifts the veil on America's romantic vision of Tibet to reveal a country and a spiritual history more complex and less ideal than popular perceptions allow. . . . Lively and engaging, Lopez's book raises important questions about how Eastern religions are often co-opted, assimilated and misunderstood by Western culture."—Publishers Weekly
"Proceeding with care and precision, Lopez reveals the extent to which scholars have behaved like intellectual colonialists. . . . Someone had to burst the bubble of pop Tibetology, and few could have done it as resoundingly as Lopez."—Booklist
"Fascinating. . . [A] provocative exploration. Lopez conveys the full dizziness of the Western encounter with Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism."—Fred Pheil, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
"A timely and courageous exploration. . . . [Lopez's] book will sharpen the terms of the debate over what the Tibetans and their observers can or should be doing about the place and the idea of Tibet. And that alone is what will give us all back our Shambhala."—Jonathan Spence, Lingua Franca Book Review
"Lopez's most important theme is that we should be wary of the idea . . . that Tibet has what the West lacks, that if we were only to look there we would find the answers to our problems. Lopez's book shows that, on the contrary, when the West has looked at Tibet, all that it has seen is a distorted reflection of itself."—Ben Jackson, Times Higher Education Supplement
A pathbreaking account of World War II POW camps, challenging the longstanding belief that the Japanese Empire systematically mistreated Allied prisoners.
In only five months, from the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 to the fall of Corregidor in May 1942, the Japanese Empire took prisoner more than 140,000 Allied servicemen and 130,000 civilians from a dozen different countries. From Manchuria to Java, Burma to New Guinea, the Japanese army hastily set up over seven hundred camps to imprison these unfortunates. In the chaos, 40 percent of American POWs did not survive. More Australians died in captivity than were killed in combat.
Sarah Kovner offers the first portrait of detention in the Pacific theater that explains why so many suffered. She follows Allied servicemen in Singapore and the Philippines transported to Japan on “hellships” and singled out for hard labor, but also describes the experience of guards and camp commanders, who were completely unprepared for the task. Much of the worst treatment resulted from a lack of planning, poor training, and bureaucratic incoherence rather than an established policy of debasing and tormenting prisoners. The struggle of POWs tended to be greatest where Tokyo exercised the least control, and many were killed by Allied bombs and torpedoes rather than deliberate mistreatment.
By going beyond the horrific accounts of captivity to actually explain why inmates were neglected and abused, Prisoners of the Empire contributes to ongoing debates over POW treatment across myriad war zones, even to the present day.
Prisons and Patriots provides a detailed account of forty-one Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans), known as the Tucsonians, who were imprisoned for resisting the draft during WWII. Cherstin Lyon parallels their courage as resisters with that of civil rights hero Gordon Hirabayashi, well known for his legal battle against curfew and internment, who also resisted the draft. These dual stories highlight the intrinsic relationship between the rights and the obligations of citizenship, particularly salient in times of war.
Lyon considers how wartime civil disobedience has been remembered through history—how soldiers have been celebrated for their valor while resisters have been demonized as unpatriotic. Using archival research and interviews, she presents a complex picture of loyalty and conflict among first-generation Issei and Nisei. Lyon contends that the success of the redress movement has made room for a narrative that neither reduces the wartime confinement to a source of shame nor proffers an uncritical account of heroic individuals.
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.
Throughout the nineteenth century the idyllic island of Fernando de Noronha, which lies two hundred miles off Brazil's northeastern coast, was home to Brazil's largest forced labor penal colony. In Punishment in Paradise Peter M. Beattie uses Noronha as a case study to understand nineteenth-century Brazil's varied social and cultural values, especially in relation to justice, class, color, civil condition, human rights and labor. As Brazil’s slave population declined after 1850, the use of colonial-era disciplinary practices at Noronha—such as flogging and forced labor—stoked anxieties about human rights and Brazil’s international image. Beattie contends that the treatment of slaves, convicts, and other social categories subject to coercive labor extraction were interconnected and that reforms that benefitted one of these categories made them harder to deny to others. In detailing Noronha's history and the end of slavery as part of an international expansion of human rights, Beattie places Brazil firmly in the purview of Atlantic history.
Shining new light on early American prison literature—from its origins in last words, dying warnings, and gallows literature to its later works of autobiography, exposé, and imaginative literature—Reading Prisoners weaves together insights about the rise of the early American penitentiary, the history of early American literacy instruction, and the transformation of crime writing in the “long” eighteenth century.
Looking first at colonial America—an era often said to devalue jailhouse literacy—Jodi Schorb reveals that in fact this era launched the literate prisoner into public prominence. Criminal confessions published between 1700 and 1740, she shows, were crucial “literacy events” that sparked widespread public fascination with the reading habits of the condemned, consistent with the evangelical revivalism that culminated in the first Great Awakening. By century’s end, narratives by condemned criminals helped an audience of new writers navigate the perils and promises of expanded literacy.
Schorb takes us off the scaffold and inside the private world of the first penitentiaries—such as Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Prison and New York’s Newgate, Auburn, and Sing Sing. She unveils the long and contentious struggle over the value of prisoner education that ultimately led to sporadic efforts to supply prisoners with books and education. Indeed, a new philosophy emerged, one that argued that prisoners were best served by silence and hard labor, not by reading and writing—a stance that a new generation of convict authors vociferously protested.
The staggering rise of mass incarceration in America since the 1970s has brought the issue of prisoner rehabilitation once again to the fore. Reading Prisoners offers vital background to the ongoing, crucial debates over the benefits of prisoner education.
DePastino, Todd Rutgers University Press, 2006 Library of Congress PS3523.O46Z475 2006 | Dewey Decimal 813.52
In 1894, an eighteen-year-old Jack London quit his job shoveling coal, hopped a freight train, and left California on the first leg of a ten thousand-mile odyssey. His adventure was an exaggerated version of the unemployed migrations made by millions of boys, men, and a few women during the original "great depression of the 1890s. By taking to the road, young wayfarers like London forged a vast hobo subculture that was both a product of the new urban industrial order and a challenge to it. As London's experience suggests, this hobo world was born of equal parts desperation and fascination. "I went on 'The Road,'" he writes, "because I couldn't keep away from it . . . Because I was so made that I couldn't work all my life on 'one same shift'; because-well, just because it was easier to than not to."
The best stories that London told about his hoboing days can be found in The Road, a collection of nine essays with accompanying illustrations, most of which originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine between 1907 and 1908. His virile persona spoke to white middle-class readers who vicariously escaped their desk-bound lives and followed London down the hobo trail. The zest and humor of his tales, as Todd DePastino explains in his lucid introduction, often obscure their depth and complexity. The Road is as much a commentary on London's disillusionment with wealth, celebrity, and the literary marketplace as it is a picaresque memoir of his youth.
A critical investigation into the use of psychotropic drugs to pacify and control inmates and other captives in the vast U.S. prison, military, and welfare systems
For at least four decades, U.S. prisons and jails have aggressively turned to psychotropic drugs—antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers—to silence inmates, whether or not they have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. In Silent Cells, Anthony Ryan Hatch demonstrates that the pervasive use of psychotropic drugs has not only defined and enabled mass incarceration but has also become central to other forms of captivity, including foster homes, military and immigrant detention centers, and nursing homes.
Silent Cells shows how, in shockingly large numbers, federal, state, and local governments and government-authorized private agencies pacify people with drugs, uncovering patterns of institutional violence that threaten basic human and civil rights. Drawing on publicly available records, Hatch unearths the coercive ways that psychotropics serve to manufacture compliance and docility, practices hidden behind layers of state secrecy, medical complicity, and corporate profiteering.
Psychotropics, Hatch shows, are integral to “technocorrectional” policies devised to minimize public costs and increase the private profitability of mass captivity while guaranteeing public safety and national security. This broad indictment of psychotropics is therefore animated by a radical counterfactual question: would incarceration on the scale practiced in the United States even be possible without psychotropics?
The final book in the groundbreaking Voices from the Underground series, Stop the Presses! I Want to Get Off!, is the inspiring, frenetic, funny, sad, always-cash-starved story of Joe Grant, founder and publisher of Prisoners’ Digest International, the most important prisoners’ rights underground newspaper of the Vietnam era. From Grant’s military days in pre-Revolutionary Cuba during the Korean War, to his time as publisher of a pro-union newspaper in Cedar Rapids and his eventual imprisonment in Leavenworth, Kansas, Grant’s personal history is a testament to the power of courage under duress. One of the more notorious federal penitentiaries in the nation, Leavenworth inspired Grant to found PDI in an effort to bring hope to prisoners and their families nationwide.
In 1911, leading English suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst visited America. Unlike other suffragette leaders, who spent their time in America among the social elite, Pankhurst wasted no time getting right to the heart of America’s social problems. She visited striking laundry workers in New York and female prisoners in Philadelphia and Chicago, and she grappled firsthand with shocking racism in Nashville.
This book gathers Pankhurst’s writings from the year-long visit, in which she reveals her shock at the darkness hidden in American life, and draws parallels to her experiences of imprisonment and misogyny in her own country. Never before published, these writings mark an important stage in the development of the suffragette's thought, which she brought back to Britain to inform the burgeoning suffrage campaign there.
“I hole up in my own cozy cubicle and write, considering ways to make the approaching Thanksgiving holiday not just another day in this place. In prison, hope faces east; time is measured in wake-ups.”
Time of Grace is a remarkable book, written with great eloquence by a former science teacher who was incarcerated for twelve years for his sexual liaison with a teenage student. Far more than a “prison memoir,” it is an intimate and revealing look at relationships—with fellow humans and with the surprising wildlife of the Sonoran Desert, both inside and beyond prison walls. Throughout, Ken Lamberton reflects on human relations as they mimic and defy those of the natural world, whose rhythms calibrate Lamberton’s days and years behind bars. He writes with candor about his life, while observing desert flora and fauna with the insight and enthusiasm of a professional naturalist.
While he studies a tarantula digging her way out of the packed earth and observes Mexican freetail bats sailing into the evening sky, Lamberton ruminates on his crime and on the wrenching effects it has had on his wife and three daughters. He writes of his connections with his fellow inmates—some of whom he teaches in prison classes—and with the guards who control them, sometimes with inexplicable cruelty. And he unflinchingly describes a prison system that has gone horribly wrong—a system entrapped in a self-created web of secrecy, fear, and lies.
This is the final book of Lamberton’s trilogy about the twelve years he spent in prison. Readers of his earlier books will savor this last volume. Those who are only now discovering Lamberton’s distinctive voice—part poet, part scientist, part teacher, and always deeply, achingly human—will feel as if they are making a new friend.
Gripping, sobering, and beautifully written, Lamberton’s memoir is an unforgettable exploration of crime, punishment, and the power of the human spirit.
The United States imprisons far more people, total and per capita, and at a higher rate than any other country in the world. Among the more than 1.5 million Americans currently incarcerated, minorities and the poor are disproportionately represented. What’s more, they tend to come from just a few of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the country. While the political costs of this phenomenon remain poorly understood, it’s become increasingly clear that the effects of this mass incarceration are much more pervasive than previously thought, extending beyond those imprisoned to the neighbors, family, and friends left behind.
For Trading Democracy for Justice, Traci Burch has drawn on data from neighborhoods with imprisonment rates up to fourteen times the national average to chart demographic features that include information about imprisonment, probation, and parole, as well as voter turnout and volunteerism. She presents powerful evidence that living in a high-imprisonment neighborhood significantly decreases political participation. Similarly, people living in these neighborhoods are less likely to engage with their communities through volunteer work. What results is the demobilization of entire neighborhoods and the creation of vast inequalities—even among those not directly affected by the criminal justice system.
The first book to demonstrate the ways in which the institutional effects of imprisonment undermine already disadvantaged communities, Trading Democracy for Justice speaks to issues at the heart of democracy.
In Turned Inside Out: Reading the Russian Novel in Prison, Steven Shankman reflects on his remarkable experience teaching texts by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vasily Grossman, and Emmanuel Levinas in prison to a mix of university students and inmates. These persecuted writers—Shankman argues that Dostoevsky’s and Levinas’s experiences of incarceration were formative—describe ethical obligation as an experience of being turned inside out by the face-to-face encounter. Shankman relates this experience of being turned inside out to the very significance of the word “God,” to Dostoevsky’s tormented struggles with religious faith, to Vasily Grossman’s understanding of his Jewishness in his great novel Life and Fate, and to the interpersonal encounters the author has witnessed reading these texts with his students in the prison environment.
Turned Inside Out will appeal to readers with interests in the classic novels of Russian literature, in prisons and pedagogy, or in Levinas and phenomenology. At a time when the humanities are struggling to justify the centrality of their mission in today’s colleges and universities, Steven Shankman by example makes an undeniably powerful case for the transformative power of reading great texts.
Andrew Motion brings all his lyricism and inventiveness to bear in this fictional autobiography of the great swindler, Thomas Griffiths Wainewright. A painter, writer, and friend of Blake, Byron, and Keats, Wainewright was almost certainly a murderer. When he died in a penal colony in Tasmania, he left behind fragments of documents and a beguiling legend which Motion uses to create an imagined confession laced with facts, telling the story as no straightforward history could.
"Thomas Griffiths Wainewright is a dream subject for either novelist or biographer. . . . Andrew Motion, Britain's poet laureate, clearly felt that neither straight biography nor pure fiction would do Wainewright's complexities justice, and so he combined the two genres. The result is stunning. The central voice is that of Wainewright himself, reflecting back on his life. After each chapter Mr. Motion has added detailed notes that inform and flesh out the narrative, giving not only his own informed opinion of Wainewright's actions but also those of Wainewright's contemporaries and the scholars and writers who have studied him over the past two centuries."—Lucy Moore, Washington Times
"Brilliantly innovative, gripping, intricately researched, Motion's biography does justice to its subject at last."—John Carey, The Sunday Times
"Engaging and convincing. . . . The trajectory of this character-from neglected and resentful child to arrogant and envious London dandy to sociopathic murderer on to an enfeebled, frightened prisoner-is indelibly imagined and drawn."—Edmund White, Financial Times
"[A] fascinating look at an evil artist, a charmer still having his way with us. We can hear him being economical with the truth, telling us and himself just what he wants to hear."—Michael Olmert, New Jersey Star Ledger
"Motion crafts a fascinating tale as complex and compelling as if Wainewright himself had written it."—Michael Spinella, Booklist
"Did he kill his servant, and possibly others as well? . . . The footnotes seem to say yes, but Wainewright adamantly argues his own case. Motion's prose is flawless, and Wainewright's voice is convincing. But in the long run, it's this ambiguity that makes Wainewright the Poisoner a fascinating and memorable read."—R.V. Schelde, Sacramento News and Review
"Who could as for a better Romantic villain than Thomas Griffiths Wainewright? . . . [The book] succeeds on many levels: as an act of ventriloquism, a work of scholarship, a psychological study, as a set of sharp portraits of famous men and an engrossing read. . . ."—Polly Shulman, Newsday
"Instead of a straightforward biography, Andrew Motion gives us Wainewright's first person, fictionalized "confession."—a document as circumspect, slyly reticent, and oeaginously smooth as the man himself. Splendid."—John Banville, Literary Review
"A genuine tour de force, and on a non-fictional level, a telling portrait of a strange, intriguing and repellant man."—Brian Fallon, Irish Times
"A marvelous literary hybrid that totters with one foot in the world of nonfiction, the other in the land of make-believe. One is alternatively swept up in Motion's dizzy imaginative pastiche, or sent crashing into a dusty stack of scholarly cogitations. . . ."—Philadelphia Inquirer
"As true a portrait of a liar as its subject could wish. Rich and strange. . . ."—Glasgow Herald
The United States has more than two million people locked away in federal, state, and local prisons. Although most of the U.S. population is non-Hispanic and white, the vast majority of the incarcerated—and policed—is not. In this compelling collection, scholars, activists, and current and former prisoners examine the sensibilities that enable a penal democracy to thrive. Some pieces are new to this volume; others are classic critiques of U.S. state power. Through biography, diary entries, and criticism, the contributors collectively assert that the United States wages war against enemies abroad and against its own people at home.
Contributors consider the interning or policing of citizens of color, the activism of radicals, structural racism, destruction and death in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and the FBI Counterintelligence Program designed to quash domestic dissent. Among the first-person accounts are an interview with Dhoruba Bin Wahad, a Black Panther and former political prisoner; a portrayal of life in prison by a Plowshares nun jailed for her antinuclear and antiwar activism; a discussion of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement by one of its members, now serving a seventy-year prison sentence for sedition; and an excerpt from a 1970 letter by the Black Panther George Jackson chronicling the abuses of inmates in California’s Soledad Prison. Warfare in the American Homeland also includes the first English translation of an excerpt from a pamphlet by Michel Foucault and others. They argue that the 1971 shooting of George Jackson by prison guards was a murder premeditated in response to human-rights and justice organizing by black and brown prisoners and their supporters.
Contributors. Hishaam Aidi, Dhoruba Bin Wahad (Richard Moore), Marilyn Buck, Marshall Eddie Conway, Susie Day, Daniel Defert, Madeleine Dwertman, Michel Foucault, Carol Gilbert, Sirène Harb, Rose Heyer, George Jackson, Joy James, Manning Marable, William F. Pinar, Oscar Lòpez Rivera, Dylan Rodríguez, Jared Sexton, Catherine vön Bulow, Laura Whitehorn, Frank B. Wilderson III
This collection documents the efforts of the Prison Communication, Activism, Research, and Education collective (PCARE) to put democracy into practice by merging prison education and activism. Through life-changing programs in a dozen states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin), PCARE works with prisoners, in prisons, and in communities to reclaim justice from the prison-industrial complex. Based on years of pragmatic activism and engaged teaching, the materials in this volume present a sweeping inventory of how communities and individuals both within and outside of prisons are marshaling the arts, education, and activism to reduce crime and enhance citizenship. Documenting hands-on case studies that emphasize educational initiatives, successful prison-based programs, and activist-oriented analysis, Working for Justice provides readers with real-world answers based on years of pragmatic activism and engaged teaching.
Contributors are David Coogan, Craig Lee Engstrom, Jeralyn Faris, Stephen John Hartnett, Edward A. Hinck, Shelly Schaefer Hinck, Bryan J. McCann, Nikki H. Nichols, Eleanor Novek, Brittany L. Peterson, Jonathan Shailor, Rachel A. Smith, Derrick L. Williams, Lesley A. Withers, Jennifer K. Wood, and Bill Yousman.