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American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment

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A groundbreaking and brave inside reckoning with the nexus of prison and profit in America in one Louisiana prison and over the course of our country's history. In 2014, Shane Bauer was hired for $9 an hour to work as an entry-level prison guard at a private prison in Winnfield, Louisiana. An award-winning investigative journalist, he used his real name; there was no meani A groundbreaking and brave inside reckoning with the nexus of prison and profit in America in one Louisiana prison and over the course of our country's history. In 2014, Shane Bauer was hired for $9 an hour to work as an entry-level prison guard at a private prison in Winnfield, Louisiana. An award-winning investigative journalist, he used his real name; there was no meaningful background check. Four months later, his employment came to an abrupt end. But he had seen enough, and in short order he wrote an exposé about his experiences that won a National Magazine Award and became the most-read feature in the history of the magazine Mother Jones. Still, there was much more that he needed to say. In American Prison, Bauer weaves a much deeper reckoning with his experiences together with a thoroughly researched history of for-profit prisons in America from their origins in the decades before the Civil War. For, as he soon realized, we can't understand the cruelty of our current system and its place in the larger story of mass incarceration without understanding where it came from. Private prisons became entrenched in the South as part of a systemic effort to keep the African-American labor force in place in the aftermath of slavery, and the echoes of these shameful origins are with us still. The private prison system is deliberately unaccountable to public scrutiny. Private prisons are not incentivized to tend to the health of their inmates, or to feed them well, or to attract and retain a highly trained prison staff. Though Bauer befriends some of his colleagues and sympathizes with their plight, the chronic dysfunction of their lives only adds to the prison's sense of chaos. To his horror, Bauer finds himself becoming crueler and more aggressive the longer he works in the prison, and he is far from alone. A blistering indictment of the private prison system and the powerful forces that drive it, American Prison is a necessary human document about the true face of justice in America.


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A groundbreaking and brave inside reckoning with the nexus of prison and profit in America in one Louisiana prison and over the course of our country's history. In 2014, Shane Bauer was hired for $9 an hour to work as an entry-level prison guard at a private prison in Winnfield, Louisiana. An award-winning investigative journalist, he used his real name; there was no meani A groundbreaking and brave inside reckoning with the nexus of prison and profit in America in one Louisiana prison and over the course of our country's history. In 2014, Shane Bauer was hired for $9 an hour to work as an entry-level prison guard at a private prison in Winnfield, Louisiana. An award-winning investigative journalist, he used his real name; there was no meaningful background check. Four months later, his employment came to an abrupt end. But he had seen enough, and in short order he wrote an exposé about his experiences that won a National Magazine Award and became the most-read feature in the history of the magazine Mother Jones. Still, there was much more that he needed to say. In American Prison, Bauer weaves a much deeper reckoning with his experiences together with a thoroughly researched history of for-profit prisons in America from their origins in the decades before the Civil War. For, as he soon realized, we can't understand the cruelty of our current system and its place in the larger story of mass incarceration without understanding where it came from. Private prisons became entrenched in the South as part of a systemic effort to keep the African-American labor force in place in the aftermath of slavery, and the echoes of these shameful origins are with us still. The private prison system is deliberately unaccountable to public scrutiny. Private prisons are not incentivized to tend to the health of their inmates, or to feed them well, or to attract and retain a highly trained prison staff. Though Bauer befriends some of his colleagues and sympathizes with their plight, the chronic dysfunction of their lives only adds to the prison's sense of chaos. To his horror, Bauer finds himself becoming crueler and more aggressive the longer he works in the prison, and he is far from alone. A blistering indictment of the private prison system and the powerful forces that drive it, American Prison is a necessary human document about the true face of justice in America.

30 review for American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jillian Doherty

    American Prison is an eye-opening exploration of a deeply broken system. Revealing not only a look at the inside workings of our prison systems, but also facility issues; Mr. Bauer went undercover as a corrections officer within a Louisiana prison. This perspective is complicated by his experiences serving time himself. The book is also a fascinating look back at the history and development of our penal system – reflecting on how slavery transition aided national funding through a corrupt program, American Prison is an eye-opening exploration of a deeply broken system. Revealing not only a look at the inside workings of our prison systems, but also facility issues; Mr. Bauer went undercover as a corrections officer within a Louisiana prison. This perspective is complicated by his experiences serving time himself. The book is also a fascinating look back at the history and development of our penal system – reflecting on how slavery transition aided national funding through a corrupt program, with some aspects still seen today. This compelling undertaking is for anyone who enjoys topics we think we know about, but are incredibly underrated- especially once a focus light is shined upon them. Galley borrowed from publisher.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Madeline Partner

    Bauer took a brave step by becoming a prison guard to experience first-hand what it is like inside of America's privately run prisons. He chose to become a prison guard at a CCA-run private prison in the small town of Winn, Louisiana. He works there for a few months, and witnesses daily instances of violence, abuse, and general unruliness that amount to complete chaos. As the prison unravels, Bauer does as well, and begins to become paranoid, constantly overthinking and questioning his actions. I Bauer took a brave step by becoming a prison guard to experience first-hand what it is like inside of America's privately run prisons. He chose to become a prison guard at a CCA-run private prison in the small town of Winn, Louisiana. He works there for a few months, and witnesses daily instances of violence, abuse, and general unruliness that amount to complete chaos. As the prison unravels, Bauer does as well, and begins to become paranoid, constantly overthinking and questioning his actions. It seems as if the days of undercover reporting have passed, but Bauer gives us good reason to find the resources to continue the practice. By going undercover, Bauer was able to witness the daily violence, racism and injustice perpetrated against inmates, and at times, prison guards. His personal experience illuminates private prisons in a way that is hard to capture from statistics and press releases, which aim to conceal the chaos within many of these prisons. I thought Bauer's observations about prison conditions and his conversations with inmates were especially enlightening, and it was amazing to 'witness' the change in his personality as he continued to work at the prison. Bauer also injects chapters that explain the history of the American prison system, and how privatization came about. I think this was very important to include, since many of the issues that private prisons have today are issues that they have always had, in one form or another. It was also important to read about how the United State's history of racism has continued to influence how prisoners are treated in American prisons, especially through the practice of penal labor. While I found Bauer's research, and experience as a prison guard enlightening, I felt that more time could have been spent analyzing how he changed as a prison guard. There are some brief mentions of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and of his own changing mentality, but I wish these had been addressed and analyzed in more detail. Since one's personality and morality play so much into one's actions, especially when you are in a position of power, like Bauer, I felt that an analysis of his own changing psyche would be a critical part of this narrative. Overall, I think this is a great piece of undercover investigative journalism, and I admire Bauer's bravery and commitment to the subject. I went into this not knowing a lot about the American penal system, and I also found this book to be a good introduction to the topic.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    Bauer's book has convinced me that private prisons have an awful legacy and are operated poorly because they are operated with en eye to saving every possible cent for profit rather than to make the prison better. He alternates between history of private prisons in general and his experience working for a CCA prison in Louisiana, painting a picture of greed, continuation of slavery, abuse, and neglect over nearly two centuries. In the context of the current prison strike, this story is glaringly Bauer's book has convinced me that private prisons have an awful legacy and are operated poorly because they are operated with en eye to saving every possible cent for profit rather than to make the prison better. He alternates between history of private prisons in general and his experience working for a CCA prison in Louisiana, painting a picture of greed, continuation of slavery, abuse, and neglect over nearly two centuries. In the context of the current prison strike, this story is glaringly relevant. It is informative. It is also extremely difficult to read. There are times when Bauer can't decide whether he likes himself, which makes it difficult for me to decide whether I like him as a narrator. He's not entirely consistent, because he's undercover, doing something he doesn't believe in. That makes every page a violent struggle, whether with literal aggression in the prison or metaphorical inner struggle in his conscience. It's exhausting to read. And yet I feel like recommending it to everyone. Some pieces of the relevant issues are super well-researched, and some less so. His uncritical explanation of the Stanford prison experiment was especially problematic. But overall this is a gripping read that should have us all questioning how we as a nation, as states, as counties treat those in the corrections system. I got a copy to review from the publisher through Eidelweiss.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    Simply fantastic. If you liked Bauer's reporting in Mother Jones, you'll love this greatly expanded story about his time undercover at the privately-owned Winn Correctional Unit in Louisiana. Winn is owned by the then-named CCA, now rebranded as CoreCivic. It's one of the two biggies in the private prison industry, along with GeoGroup, the former Wackenhut, aka Whack Your Nuts. Bauer gives a history of private prisons, along with that of public prisons renting out inmates to the private sector, cu Simply fantastic. If you liked Bauer's reporting in Mother Jones, you'll love this greatly expanded story about his time undercover at the privately-owned Winn Correctional Unit in Louisiana. Winn is owned by the then-named CCA, now rebranded as CoreCivic. It's one of the two biggies in the private prison industry, along with GeoGroup, the former Wackenhut, aka Whack Your Nuts. Bauer gives a history of private prisons, along with that of public prisons renting out inmates to the private sector, culminating in the 1960s, when one of CCA's founders, T. Don Hutto, earned his privatizing stripes as a Texas prison warden, and then in the 70s went on to run the Arkansas state pen system before co-founding CCA. (Sadly, and outside the purview of this book, Bauer believes the White Helmets myth in Syria lock, stock and barrel. Of course, that's likely related to his working for Mother Jones, and their spouting the bipartisan duopoly's standard line on foreign policy and intervention when not spouting the Trump-Putin collusion line.) I'm pretty familiar with most of this, having interviewed one Texas inmate who was a block captain back in those old TDC days. If you're not familiar with the big picture, even having read the MoJo piece, you may be shocked. I hope you are. And angered. And disgusted. The absolute cheapness of the private prison system is here from the start. CCA, in what passes for a background check, was too lazy to Google "Shane Bauer" and find out about his investigative reporting past, which included time in an Iranian prison from accidentally entering Iran-Iraq disputed territory. When I went to work at a seven-day daily paper, I had my name Googled. Anyway, that cheapness goes all the way down the line. The sad part is, that, like other businesses, it would probably save money in the long run, on employee retention, by not being so cheap. Not to mention on lawsuits, no matter how hard it fights the ones it regularly faces right now. That said, this is mainly about private prisons. Don't forget that public prisons (and even more, city and county jails, which aren't part of Bauer's remit) still today find ways to "rent out" inmates to the private sector. Or they use inmate labor, especially in the South, to suppress wages still today — something that Bauer notes goes back to the end of the Civil War. A great read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diane Payne

    American Prison is not an easy read but it is an essential read. Earlier, I had read Shane Bauer's essay about his undercover reporting of prisons in Mother Jones and knew I had to read this book. Too often, we don't pay attention to the fact that as voters and citizens we do have a voice in prison reform. We watch shows like Orange is the New Black, laugh uncomfortably, then don't do anything after watching the episode where the inmates believe they are finally being released from prison, which American Prison is not an easy read but it is an essential read. Earlier, I had read Shane Bauer's essay about his undercover reporting of prisons in Mother Jones and knew I had to read this book. Too often, we don't pay attention to the fact that as voters and citizens we do have a voice in prison reform. We watch shows like Orange is the New Black, laugh uncomfortably, then don't do anything after watching the episode where the inmates believe they are finally being released from prison, which they technically are, but instead they are driven to an immigration center prison. Much to think about while reading this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Essential reading about a topic requiring our urgent attention and commitment to solve. For-profit prisons are a scourge and blight that must end if our democracy is to survive. We must commit ourselves to reforming how our society thinks about prison, punishment, and rehabilitation. This book does a good job of highlighting one for-profit prison’s failings and what needs to change.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In many regards reminds me of an all time favorite, Black Like Me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Wall

    Listened to this on audio, nothing new or engaging if you’ve read other items on the issues with prison, reform, etc.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julie Stielstra

    Un-put-downable - I read it in a day. Shane Bauer goes undercover for four months as a guard in a for-profit prison in Louisiana, run by Correction Corporation of America (CCA), as it then was, now "rebranded" as Core Civic. Bauer, as it happens, was one of the three American journalists consigned to Tehran's notrious Evin prison for two years for accidentally wandering too close to the Iranian border, so he knows a little bit about the other side of the bars. Carrying an audio-recording pen, a n Un-put-downable - I read it in a day. Shane Bauer goes undercover for four months as a guard in a for-profit prison in Louisiana, run by Correction Corporation of America (CCA), as it then was, now "rebranded" as Core Civic. Bauer, as it happens, was one of the three American journalists consigned to Tehran's notrious Evin prison for two years for accidentally wandering too close to the Iranian border, so he knows a little bit about the other side of the bars. Carrying an audio-recording pen, a notebook, and a coffee thermos with a camera built into the cap, he records and chronicles the daily nightmare that is the Winn prison. Pay starts (and remains, regardless of length of tenure) at $9/hour - well, eventually they raise it to $10 to remain at parity with the local WalMart pay scale. Dangerously understaffed (the bare minimum staff levels required by the state contract under which they operate are frequently not met), lunch in the chow hall for over 300 inmates is supervised by two guards. Two. Cost cutting means there is no one in the watch towers - an escaped inmate isn't missed for hours. There is no full time psychiatrist, there is one full time social worker. There are no classes, no education, no organized recreation, medical care is marginal at best - an inmate doubled up with chest pain is given Motrin until he collapses and dies days later. Inmates stew, complain, shriek abuse and threats, and try to kill themselves. Who can blame them? Bauer watches, engages, observes and is appalled. He struggles with his own fears and confusion: how tough should he be? how kind dare he be? who's trying to manipulate him? It's every man and woman for him or herself, and the price exacted in basic humanity is beyond payment. As if this front-line coverage isn't enough, Bauer alternates his own experience with powerfully in-depth research of the history of the American for-profit prison system. If you thought it was a recent invention, you are very much mistaken. Once the slaves were freed, the South had lost its labor force - and slaves at least were considered rather valuable property. But prisoners? Who cared? They were free for the taking. Lose one? There were plenty more where he came from. Plantation and manufacturing barons quickly shifted to leasing prisoners for the worst physical labor and drove many to their deaths, chained, whipped, tortured, and starved. Any child born to a woman convict (who were routinely sexually abused and raped by foremen and bosses) was legally the property of the state and taken away when the child was 10, and sent to the fields to work. State governments hired out their prisoners to private industrialists and farmers and made money that way, and the owners made even more on the backs of this cheap, limitless "human resource." The type of labor shifted from agricultural to mining and railroad works... the death rates were routinely higher than those in the worst years of the Soviet gulags. Yes, there was some pushback, there were some reformers. But when the revenue started dropping, the reformers were dismissed. And now we have CoreCivic and LaSalle, continuing in a handsome sanitized form, promising to house prisoners for $24 a day. You can do that if, for example, you only feed them a few hundred calories a day, as prisoners in the high-security suicide-watch ward are at Winn, under the contemptuous gaze of men dressed like black Ninjas who particularly enjoy using pepper spray and who know exactly what corners the security cameras (many of which don't work) don't cover. Bauer relates incident after incident, both observed firsthand and reported by immates or fellow staff members, and when CCA responds, the response is either they didn't know, they have no record, it was "contrary to policy," or they settled out of court. They like to say they are "committed to..." a lot of things, but don't actually DO any of them. Bauer finally quits. He finds himself poisoned by the experience, his innate humanity clogged with the sewage of the prison chaos. But he has written a fine and important book - his reporting as well as other audits showing higher levels of violence, waste, and unacceptable performance in for-profit prisons than in state-run facilities influenced the Obama administration to refuse to contract with for-profit entities for federal prison services. You know how that ended, right? The federal contracting was immediately reinstated by Jeff Sessions. Depressing, appalling, enlightening, gruesome (more than enough graphic sexual abuse and acting out is described), humane. This book should not be ignored.

  10. 5 out of 5

    kelly

    I could not put this book down. Five stars. In 2015, Shane Bauer, a reporter with Mother Jones, goes undercover for four months at a privately owned (”for profit") prison in rural Louisiana, Winn Correctional, managed by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). He is hired for $9 an hour. He carries a pen that doubles as an audio recorder, a small notebook, a coffee thermos with a small camera in it, and documents his daily dealings with staff and inmates at his job. What he finds at Winn is pre I could not put this book down. Five stars. In 2015, Shane Bauer, a reporter with Mother Jones, goes undercover for four months at a privately owned (”for profit") prison in rural Louisiana, Winn Correctional, managed by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). He is hired for $9 an hour. He carries a pen that doubles as an audio recorder, a small notebook, a coffee thermos with a small camera in it, and documents his daily dealings with staff and inmates at his job. What he finds at Winn is pretty much a nightmare: a dangerously understaffed facility, guards that openly brag about beating inmates, daily stabbings, reports of rapes. There are no education classes, no regular rec time, or any kind of 'set' schedule, each day's activities are determined by how many staff decide to show up for work. There is one psychiatrist and one social worker for the entire prison. There is only one doctor and medical treatment is substandard. At Winn, Bauer finds that every attempt is made to save CCA money. Because there is a profit motive in keeping inmates at the facility, losing a prisoner is a loss of revenue. During his time at Winn, Bauer observes an inmate repeatedly complaining of chest pain but is refused hospital treatment and ibuprofen. He later dies. Another inmate kills himself after consistent threats to do so. Corners are cut and log books are falsified. Another prisoner manages to escape and no one misses him for hours, due the fact that it costs CCA too much to staff the guard tower. In between the chapters of undercover reporting is powerful research Bauer writes on the history of America's for-profit prison system. Locking people up for revenue, convict leasing, and state-enforced prison labor is nothing new and has always resulted in the abuse and torture of inmates, particularly men, women, and children of color. By creating laws across the American South that criminalized minor misdeeds (drinking, vagrancy, truancy), mostly Black men were forced to work in prison labor camps. When one died from routine overwork, beating, or disease, the system simply gets another. Its a system that cheapens human lives, it is no surprise that CCA has profited most under the current president and his hateful policies towards immigrants. Corporations like CCA are beginning to turn away from contracts with jails and prisons and turn its attention to building detention centers, most of which now house Mexican and Central American immigrants. I could say so much more about this book but it would be too much to type here. I do, however, wholeheartedly encourage you to read this, even if you read nothing else this fall.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Selbst

    Shane Bauer became a correctional officer at a prison run by Correctional Corporation of America in Louisiana to investigate conditions inside a for-profit prison. American Prison tells the story of his experience and also provides a brief history of the use of convict labor by state prison systems. Bauer's story is horrifying; as he demonstrates, CCA will do anything to keep its costs down. Those efforts at cost containment mean that, among other things, it pays guards little more than minimum Shane Bauer became a correctional officer at a prison run by Correctional Corporation of America in Louisiana to investigate conditions inside a for-profit prison. American Prison tells the story of his experience and also provides a brief history of the use of convict labor by state prison systems. Bauer's story is horrifying; as he demonstrates, CCA will do anything to keep its costs down. Those efforts at cost containment mean that, among other things, it pays guards little more than minimum wage, it provides minimal or non-existent health and mental health care; it short-changes inmates on food rations; and it fails to provide exercise time or access to the law library. Most importantly, the during the time Bauer was there, the facility was constantly short-staffed, which increases the danger for inmates and staff. But Bauer's report is not that surprising. We've demonized the incarcerated for decades; there is no meaningful public effort to improve prison conditions, and because America's prisons contain disproportionately high numbers of African-Americans and Hispanics, much of white America has little sympathy for inmates or their possible mistreatment. In the historical review of American prisons, he makes it clear that today's prison conditions are simply an extension of the barbaric practices that were employed in the 19th and 20th centuries. For years, particularly after the Civil War, inmates were used as forced labor gangs under conditions so inhuman they almost defy belief. The most telling anecdote is that for some state prison systems in the south, the mortality rates for prisoners exceeded the death rates experienced by the USSR in its gulag system. One of the last actions of the Obama Justice Department was to rescind the use of private prisons for federal prisoners. Predictably, one of the first steps taken by Jeff Sessions was to reinstate their use under President Trump, which set off a rally in the price of CCA stock. Prisons are terrible places. (I know because when I was a newspaper reporter in the 1970s, I covered some infamous institutions and I was inside many times.) Nobody wants to make them attractive or homey. But American Prison makes an eloquent argument that the for-profit prison system is a terrible public policy experiment that should be ended. No matter how heinous their crimes, the treatment of prisoners in those institutions fails the cruel and unusual test of the 8th Amendment. A civilized society can and must do better.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    I think fans of Just Mercy would find this book worthwhile, but honestly, I'd recommend American Prison to anyone who has an interest in the American prison system, particularly the private prison industry. Shane Bauer's reporting as an undercover corrections officer at a private prison in Winnfield, Louisana was as tense and gripping as anything I've read or watched this year. The conditions of the prison described in the book were somehow even worse than I was expecting. Bauer does a great job I think fans of Just Mercy would find this book worthwhile, but honestly, I'd recommend American Prison to anyone who has an interest in the American prison system, particularly the private prison industry. Shane Bauer's reporting as an undercover corrections officer at a private prison in Winnfield, Louisana was as tense and gripping as anything I've read or watched this year. The conditions of the prison described in the book were somehow even worse than I was expecting. Bauer does a great job in contextualizing the birth and history of prisons in this country, and leads the reader along to see how we got to where we are today--a country that represents approximately 5% of the worlds' population but has nearly 25% of the worlds prison population. Bauer's narrative is expertly executed, with a powerful ending that I will be thinking about for some time. A tough and hard read at times, but an incredibly important reminder of the massive flaws in our criminal justice system and how it disproportionately affects people of color in this country by design. 4/5

  13. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    I sincerely wish that I thought this book was better. It is about the privatization of prisons and prisons for profit. The most recent focus of prisons for profit has been its expansion in the immigration detention facility market. After the Obama administration withdrew the federal government from using private prisons, The Trump administration reinstated the practice. This book is probably about 40% about the authors four month experience as a corrections officer in a private Louisiana prison f I sincerely wish that I thought this book was better. It is about the privatization of prisons and prisons for profit. The most recent focus of prisons for profit has been its expansion in the immigration detention facility market. After the Obama administration withdrew the federal government from using private prisons, The Trump administration reinstated the practice. This book is probably about 40% about the authors four month experience as a corrections officer in a private Louisiana prison for men where about 1400 men are incarcerated. An additional 40% of the book is about the history Of leasing convicts in the United States, A practice that has been present since the beginning of the republic. After the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves leasing convicts became the replacement of the slave system. The practice bounces between private control and government control But the profit motivation is the goal in both cases. The writing here is very accessible and readable. As the end of the undercover period approaches and events are spiraling out of the control of the other somewhat, he writes about his internal conflict as he found himself somewhat emotionally adrift having been significantly impacted by the content of his daily experience as a prison guard. His personal goal and need to do the best job he could came in serious conflict with what he thought needed to be done to do that job. In the introduction to the book the author talks about his personal experience of being presumably a political prisoner for over two years in Iran. He also talks about the journalistic ethics of being in an undercover situation such as this. I think this is a fascinating aspect of the book although certainly secondary to the subject being covered. I recall the planned parenthood incident of several years ago where staff members were recorded unknowingly supposedly talking about selling fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood abortions. There was a good deal of debate about the ethics and believability of the information that was allegedly uncovered. In this book the author talks about miniaturized recording and filming devices reminiscent of the early James Bond movies. When he was departing the scene under some pressure of discovery and possible seizure, he had a considerable amount of physical material on hand including regular evening recordings on his laptop talking about the events of the day. He spent the first month of his time in training and the last three months on the job. He apparently did a good enough job being a corrections officer that he claims they were actively considering promoting him. One strange aspect Of his job was apparently writing up convicts for masturbating. He mentioned this early in his experience and while he obviously could have just ignored it, he went on for several paragraphs about it and wrote the person up. The same issue came up again later and there Was a small journalistic to do about convicts harassing him in a variety of ways for being gay. Since he had a wife he indirectly denied being gay although he never said it directly but he did seem overly bothered by this harassment. The incidence of homosexuality or at least male/male sex is clearly a legitimate topic and an all male institution but it did seem like he handled it awkwardly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stella Fouts

    Excellent research and excellent writing - still, it's a story that's difficult to hear.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Neil Farrell

    This book will scare you straight!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sara Goldenberg

    It was well researched but too raw for me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    This is a quite beautifully written, straightforward book about the history and the current state of the American prison system; the author goes undercover in a privately owned prison and basically sees what happens. And if management would infer that the man’s work is fake, he wore a video and an audio recorder. Bingo. You just sell it like you were selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers. Corrections Corporation of America cofounder Thomas Beasley Bauer’s work to begin with is highly interes This is a quite beautifully written, straightforward book about the history and the current state of the American prison system; the author goes undercover in a privately owned prison and basically sees what happens. And if management would infer that the man’s work is fake, he wore a video and an audio recorder. Bingo. You just sell it like you were selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers. Corrections Corporation of America cofounder Thomas Beasley Bauer’s work to begin with is highly interesting, as he has been imprisoned for two years in Iran. He doesn’t tell his coworkers that. Nor does he tell management he’s a journalist, which is something that blows minds afterwards. We have about eighty thousand people in solitary confinement in this country, more than anywhere in the world. In California’s Pelican Bay state prison alone, more than five hundred prisoners had spent at least a decade in the hole. Eighty-nine had been there for at least twenty years. One had been in solitary for forty-two years. I became interested in this book as I am severely interested in the criminal justice system. I live in Sweden, where people are quite prone to thinking that we’re not at all like people in the USA are; oh god! they have guns! they throw people into jail forever; these are actually things happening in Sweden today. However, we don’t have privately owned prisons. Yet. The schooling of Bauer into the prison to which he was hired is special. Four more students trickle in, and then the HR director. She scolds Reynolds for napping, and he perks up when she tells us that if we recruit a friend to work here, we’ll get five hundred bucks. She gives us a random assortment of other tips: Don’t eat the food given to inmates; don’t have sex with the inmates or you could be fined $10,000 or get sentenced to “ten years at hard labor”; try not to get sick, because we don’t get paid sick time. If we have friends or relatives incarcerated here, we need to report it. She hands out magnets to put on our fridges with a hotline to call in case we become suicidal or begin fighting with our families. We get three counseling sessions for free. I studiously jot down notes as the HR director fires up a video of the company’s CEO, who tells us in a corporate-promotional tone what a great opportunity it is to be a corrections officer at CCA. He is our shining light, an example of a man who climbed all the way up the ladder. (In 2018 he makes $4 million a year, twenty times the salary of the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.) Money has poured into the privately owned prisons for ages, and I was about to write since slavery, but technically—it is slavery. Forced labor was undeniably productive. An enslaved person in an antebellum cotton field picked around 75 percent more cotton per hour than a free farmer. Similarly, Texas prison farms into the 1960s produced a higher yield than farms worked by free laborers in the surrounding area. The reason is simple: People work harder when driven by torture. Texas allowed whipping in its prisons until 1941. Other states banned it much later. Arkansas prisons used the lash until 1967. But even after the whip, prisons found other ways to make inmates work harder. The morning after Sample’s first day of picking in 1956, the guards sent him, along with eight other men, to a four-by-eight-foot concrete and steel chamber to punish them for not making quota. The room was called “the pisser” and there was no light or water inside. A hole the size of a fifty-cent piece in the center of the floor served as the lavatory. The men’s panting breaths depleted the oxygen in the rancid air. “The nine of us writhed and twisted for space like maggots in a cesspool,” Sample recalled in his memoir. If someone took up too much space, a fight could break out. They stayed in the pisser all night, each taking turns lying down as the rest stood or squatted. In the morning they were brought straight out to the cotton fields. Yes, with slavery comes punishment. Back to the schooling: He cups his hands around his mouth. “Stop fighting,” he says to some invisible prisoners. “I said stop fighting.” His voice is nonchalant. “Y’all ain’t go’ stop, huh?” He makes like he’s backing out of a door and slams it shut. “Leave your ass in there!” He turns to face us. “Somebody’s go’ win. Somebody’s go’ lose. Hell, they both might lose, but hey, did you do your job? Hell yeah!” The classroom erupts in laughter. Approximately one-quarter of all British immigrants to America in the eighteenth century were convicts. Well, the book is very well written, and the best parts are a) the history of the prison system, b) the interaction between Bauer and the inmates, and c) how Bauer feels and mentally changes when he’s doing his work, and in his private life. To say this book has changed things in the USA is an understatement, but also, it was underway; then, the Trump administration turned up. Still, the people in power want to continue to make the money, and that they do. This book points out the issues with the prison system in America in a big way, by pointing out the little bits. It’s a massive achievement. The book breathes; this massive an achievement could easily have drowned books with the best of intentions. I can strongly recommend this, perhaps paired with the seminal “Ghettocide: A Story Of Murder In America“ by Jill Leovy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ruby

    "This book focuses on one private prison during a four-month period. It also examines how the profit motive has shaped America's prison system for the last 250 years. Private prsions do not drive mass incarceration today; they merely profit from it." "I began applying for jobs in private prsions because I wanted to see the inner workings of an industry that holds some 130,000 of our nation's 1.5 million prisoners." "We are living through a time of mass incarceration with few parallels in world his "This book focuses on one private prison during a four-month period. It also examines how the profit motive has shaped America's prison system for the last 250 years. Private prsions do not drive mass incarceration today; they merely profit from it." "I began applying for jobs in private prsions because I wanted to see the inner workings of an industry that holds some 130,000 of our nation's 1.5 million prisoners." "We are living through a time of mass incarceration with few parallels in world history. The United States imprisons a higher portion of its population than any country in the world. In 2017 we had 2.2 million people in prisons and jails, a 500 percent increase over the last forty years. We now have almost 5 persent of the world's population and nearly a quarter of its prisoners. When we look back in a century, I am convinced that our prison system will be one of the main factors that define the current era." "Through the course of my digging, it has become clear that there has never been a time on American history in which companies or governments weren't trying to make money from other people's captivity." "Like prison systems throughout the South, Texas's grew directly out of slavery. After the Civil War the state's economy was in disarray, and cotton and sugar planters suddenly found themselves without hands they could force to work. Fortunately for them, the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, left a loophole. It said that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude" shall exist in the United States "ecept as punishment for a crime." As long as black men were conivcted of crimes, Texas could lease all of its prisoners to private cotton and sugar plantations and companies running lumber camps and coal mines, and building railroads. It did this for five decades after abolition of slavery, but the state eventually became jealous of the revenue private companies and planters were earning from its prisoners. So, between 1899 and 1918, the state bought ten plantations of its own and began running them as prisons." "A handful of years later, after leaving the plantations, he would open the latest chapter of a story that goes back to the foundation of this country, wherein white people contine to reinvent ways to cash in on captive human beings." "Privarization also gave states a way to quickly expand their prison systems without taking on new debt. In the perfect marriage of fiscal and tough-on-crime conservatism, the companies would fund and construct new lockups while the courts would keep them full." "Our modern private prison system began in the 1980s, but commercial interests have been guiding penal practices since before the American Revolution." "For taking a broom out of a closet at the wrong time, this inmate will stay in prsion an extra thirty days, for which CCA will be paid more that $1,000." "People like Governor Claiborne worried that whites, kept in the same miserable quarters as enslaved African Americans, might naturally sympathize with their plight and become potential recruits for the abolitionist cause. A penitentiary would help prevent that." "Throughout the SOuth, states were leasing to powerful politicians, Northern corporations, mining companies, and planters, and they imposed little or no restrictions on what type of work businesses could force prisoners to do or how many hours they could work them." "When the US Supreme Court ruled in 2011 thatthe overcrowding of California prisons was so severe that it constituted cruel and unusual punshiment, the state contracted with private prisons located around the country to take thousands of its inmates." "The torture and slaughter of thousands of African American men was no secret during the six-odd decades of posbellum convict leasing. From the beginning, newspapers had published exposes, legislative investigations had revealed startling numbers of deaths, and penal reforms and individual legislators had pushed for abolition. But outcry over humanitarian concerns had never been enough to end convict leasing on its own. It was only when leasing stopped bringing enormous profits to powerful businessmen and state treasuries that the system came apart." "In Arkansas, Hutto would master the skill that would later make him rich: how to adapt the prison business just enough to suit the times while making it even more profitable than it had been under the old regime." Iran's Evin prison and Winn are so different that it's never made sense to compare them, but as I drive, my mind runs through the details of each: Isolations cannot really be compared, because the difference between one person's mental stability and another's insanity is found in tiny details."

  19. 4 out of 5

    cat

    Private prisons are wrong. This book, a much longer and more detailed version of the long form article written by the author for Mother Jones a few years ago, is FULL of the details of why. The author's own undercover experiences working as a prison guard at one of the privately-run prisons that is part of a portfolio of one of the largest companies in the for-profit penal world are interspersed with the history of prisons, and especially of the pre-cursors to private for-profit prisons such as Private prisons are wrong. This book, a much longer and more detailed version of the long form article written by the author for Mother Jones a few years ago, is FULL of the details of why. The author's own undercover experiences working as a prison guard at one of the privately-run prisons that is part of a portfolio of one of the largest companies in the for-profit penal world are interspersed with the history of prisons, and especially of the pre-cursors to private for-profit prisons such as labor camps, convict leasing (a way to keep black men enslaved, for the most part) and more recently, chain gangs and prison labor for corporations. The historical perspective is super valuable to understand HOW we got here. To a time when we allow corporations who are for-profit to profit off the incarceration of human beings. The historical chapters are interwoven with chapters detailing the incredible misuse of power, lack of medical and mental health care provided in order to "save money", and other egregious acts that Bauer witnessed at one for-profit prison in Louisiana, where he had been hired to guard inmates for $9 and with little training or any vetting. This is not an easy book to read. And it must have been a horrifying book to write, but so, so important. As an article found here https://theweek.com/articles/788226/p... lays out, " ...private prisons warp justice, because the company's responsibility is to its shareholders, not the public. For-profit institutions have no incentive to rehabilitate their prisoners, but every incentive to keep recidivism rates high so they can get future contracts. The more people imprisoned, the higher the profits. In 2016, the Obama administration announced that the use of private prisons at the federal level would be phased out. Crime was down, prison populations were falling, and private prisons had higher rates of violence and inhumane treatment. Private prisons save money by hiring fewer guards, paying them less, and giving them less training, as well as by providing fewer educational, medical, and enrichment services to inmates. The result is less control of the inmates and more violence. A scathing 2016 report by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General found that federally contracted private prisons had more security violations per inmate than public prisons, including a 28 percent higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults and more than twice as many inmate-on-staff assaults. In an attempt to regain control, private facilities threw more inmates in solitary and used prison-wide lockdowns more frequently." Bauer's ability to report back on the horrific conditions in the for-profit prison he worked in was a needed undertaking, his analysis of why those conditions exist was even more valuable - reminding us of the ways that any company invested in making a dollar off of the imprisonment of humans, is inherently unable to work for the larger public good because they are too busy mistreating humans in order to create profits for their shareholders and executives, though certainly not sharing those profits with the very people they have charged with doing their dirty work. 4.5 stars and so much rage at the injustices that are detailed throughout this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    Jesus, I'm reading a novel next because there's only so much reality I can handle at a time these days. Bauer splices chapters detailing the evolution of the for-profit prison from its roots in slavery to its still-alarmingly-familiar present with his own personal experience as an undercover guard in one of Louisiana's worst for-profit prisons. The history: Basically, any attempts at reform were eventually canceled out by the potential of for-profit prisons to save/make the states money. And when Jesus, I'm reading a novel next because there's only so much reality I can handle at a time these days. Bauer splices chapters detailing the evolution of the for-profit prison from its roots in slavery to its still-alarmingly-familiar present with his own personal experience as an undercover guard in one of Louisiana's worst for-profit prisons. The history: Basically, any attempts at reform were eventually canceled out by the potential of for-profit prisons to save/make the states money. And when the prisons' main purpose is to turn a profit, then safeguards for human dignity (and decency and safety) go out the window. It's not a lightning-strike conclusion, but Bauer here shows how alternatives have been tried and, ultimately, we keep going back to for-profit systems even though they're more dangerous and inhumane.* The contemporary: For-profit prisons cut corners everywhere they can and so the facilities are understaffed, the staff are underpaid, and the whole system is left to rot. When something makes it to the media, a band-aid is slapped on, but that's it. They're more violent and more prone to suicides, illegal drug use, and improper staff-inmate relations. But they're not held accountable, internally or externally, so they'll continue until we make a big enough stink about it and their (very marginal) profitability is driven equal with that of public prisons. Sigh. Depressing but pretty vital stuff. Wasn't quite as meaty as I was hoping for ("Evicted" is going to be my standard for "journalist embeds with target population" on these sorts of issues now) and meanders a bit into Bauer's own experience, but what he shared still had value. His personal conflicts came from an interesting place (he was held prisoner in Iran prior to this assignment) and make it clear that working in these places is not sustainable--which contributes to the overall picture that these sorts of systems just are not working, at any level (except of course for the few at the top who are making bank off of the suffering of many; welcome to the United States). *This gets at my personal bugbear, which is how in modern times the be-all end-all metric of success is monetary profit (specifically of the short-term gain variety). Prisons aren't meant to make money. They're meant to keep the general populace safe and curb recidivism. But apparently that's not worth investing in, so this is just going to continue to be a nightmare. Received this in my Parnassus bag of books at the Southern Book Festival, which was pretty ironic because I'd bought a hardcover version from the store about a week earlier. Now I have an extra copy to share with friends!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Susan Obryan

    Shane Bauer first introduced readers to his stint as a prison guard in a breakout article in "Mother Jones" magazine He expanded and packaged his time in 2015 at a Louisiana for-profit prison into "American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment." It's a chilling account of "profit above all else" as he trains to be guard at Winnfield Prison. After a woefully inadequate training period, he's left to guard the inmates in a prison seen all too often these days - one Shane Bauer first introduced readers to his stint as a prison guard in a breakout article in "Mother Jones" magazine He expanded and packaged his time in 2015 at a Louisiana for-profit prison into "American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment." It's a chilling account of "profit above all else" as he trains to be guard at Winnfield Prison. After a woefully inadequate training period, he's left to guard the inmates in a prison seen all too often these days - one that focuses on profits with little regard to safety, rehabilitation or progression. Bauer is no stranger to imprisonment. He spent three years as a hostage in Iran after wandering too close to a border line during a hike with his girlfriend and a friend. His personal understanding of being a prisoner gives him rare insight into the mind of a person forced to live behind bars and be total dependent on caregivers. The writer lays out the history of prisons, particularly those in the South, as they shifted from slavery to modern-day corporate-run facilities. The facts are the back story as he recounts the daily balance between those who try to do the right things while facing nearly impossible odds. It's a tightrope act for guards as well as prisoners. Bauer's book is not an easy read. It's filled with emotion and hard facts, proof that prison life is hard for staff as well as inmates. Kudos to the author seeing a wrong and trying to right it by bringing greedy secrets to light.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is incredibly well researched and I respect the author’s undertaking of the project immensely. I also really, really wanted to love this book. Prison reform, and more broadly, criminal justice reform is necessary and extremely important. However, the author’s take on it is sadly a bit trivial and not at all objective. For example, he compares confiscating a cell phone from an inmate to his own loss of freedom as a political prisoner in Iran without any regard for context and what that This book is incredibly well researched and I respect the author’s undertaking of the project immensely. I also really, really wanted to love this book. Prison reform, and more broadly, criminal justice reform is necessary and extremely important. However, the author’s take on it is sadly a bit trivial and not at all objective. For example, he compares confiscating a cell phone from an inmate to his own loss of freedom as a political prisoner in Iran without any regard for context and what that phone could be used for. He feels bad about getting an inmate in trouble for possessing and dealing drugs, but spends a bizarre amount of time taking about convincing inmates he isn’t gay and has no issue writing them up for saying he is. He makes generalizations about his experiences and appears to feel guilty about the fact that the inmates are in prison in the first place. The author simultaneously (and rightfully) balks at the rules and protocol not being followed by guards and CCA, but then also seemingly balks at enforcing rules (in an appropriate manner) himself. It is an oddly specific moral rulebook. I think that while this author had great intentions and brought very important to issues to light, he ran way too far in the opposite direction. Still, shedding light on the abuses in the system is excellent and I hope this book does just that for many people

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I'm not sure how accurate everything that happened in this book is. The author himself isn't 100% sure that what he was told during his 4 month stint is completely true. He does rely, in some of the instances, on first hand accounts from inmates and officers about horrible doings and what it's really like in CCA prisons. Personally, I'm inclined to believe that bad things can certainly happen in the prison system. I think that it isn't a far stretch for some of these things to have happened. The I'm not sure how accurate everything that happened in this book is. The author himself isn't 100% sure that what he was told during his 4 month stint is completely true. He does rely, in some of the instances, on first hand accounts from inmates and officers about horrible doings and what it's really like in CCA prisons. Personally, I'm inclined to believe that bad things can certainly happen in the prison system. I think that it isn't a far stretch for some of these things to have happened. The book is gripping and enlightening if you, like me, didn't previously know much about the system of chain gangs and near slave labor of prisoners in the South. I think that the summary overemphasizes some of his pathos in the book. There were a few times when he mentions his prior prison experience and how horrible he felt about doing similar things to the current prisoners, but it doesn't overshadow the Book. Definitely worth a read if you can take what Bauer says with a grain of salt and want to learn the history of for-profit prisons.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Faith Ryan

    Everyone should read this book. It’s as necessary as it is horrific. I went into this book knowing private prisons were bad, but not really knowing anything about the extent of them—not to mention the history. It’s shocking to learn just how many of our taken-for-granted public works were built primarily on slave labor by prisoners. The profit people made out of working and torturing these people to death is astounding, and the lengths private prisons *still* go to to protect their profits are e Everyone should read this book. It’s as necessary as it is horrific. I went into this book knowing private prisons were bad, but not really knowing anything about the extent of them—not to mention the history. It’s shocking to learn just how many of our taken-for-granted public works were built primarily on slave labor by prisoners. The profit people made out of working and torturing these people to death is astounding, and the lengths private prisons *still* go to to protect their profits are equally astounding (I’m thinking particularly of the memoir section about lack of prison healthcare and the refusal to send prisoners to hospitals). I really liked the author’s insights into his own self and how he finds his actions and personality changing the longer he works at the prison. My only complaint is that the information-dump chapters were a bit too dense at times; I had to re-read a couple of them because I got lost within all the lists of facts. That said, it was an extremely well-research and well-written book, and everyone should definitely give it a read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kim. E.

    Author Shane Bauer is an investigative reporter who spent two years in a prison in Iran after being accused of crossing the border from Iraq. That experience plays a role in his experiences serving to be hired by CCA (Now CoreCivic, a private prison company that manages many prisons (and now immigration detention facilities), including Winnfield in Louisiana. It is fascinating to me that Bauer is hired by CCA after a background check in which he is completely open about his career on his applicat Author Shane Bauer is an investigative reporter who spent two years in a prison in Iran after being accused of crossing the border from Iraq. That experience plays a role in his experiences serving to be hired by CCA (Now CoreCivic, a private prison company that manages many prisons (and now immigration detention facilities), including Winnfield in Louisiana. It is fascinating to me that Bauer is hired by CCA after a background check in which he is completely open about his career on his application. The chapters alter between him being trained and working within the prison, and the history of what became known as convict leasing in which states received money from companies such as the mining and railroad business to use these prisoners in the most tortured of situations. This book is well researched and notable in expressing the way the United States treats those incarcerated in order to meet quotas and make money.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Diane Lefer

    Essential reading though it takes a strong stomach. It's not just Bauer's inside report on what went on in the private prison where he worked, but he offers the horrific history of for-profit prisons in the US and the inextricable link between mass incarceration and the most virulent racism. Black men in the era past slavery were treated worse than slaves. Arrested on minor (or entirely specious) grounds and set to work building the South -- cotton and sugar plantations, building railroads, mini Essential reading though it takes a strong stomach. It's not just Bauer's inside report on what went on in the private prison where he worked, but he offers the horrific history of for-profit prisons in the US and the inextricable link between mass incarceration and the most virulent racism. Black men in the era past slavery were treated worse than slaves. Arrested on minor (or entirely specious) grounds and set to work building the South -- cotton and sugar plantations, building railroads, mining coal to jumpstart industrialization, and all the while subject to the most extreme and horrific tortures. A slave had to be taken care of. A prisoner? Kill him and arrest another. I am grateful to Shane Bauer for what he has exposed. Maybe the only happy note I take away from this book is that the horrors in the US today are not new or exceptional. We have to come to grips with the past.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Snook

    No matter your political leanings you should read this book. With nearly 2.5 million people in US prisons and our tax dollars paying for this mass incarceration it is important that all citizens understand what our prison industry is all about. The history of incarceration in the US; the conflicting goals of for profit prisons relative to the state goals; and this inside look at what actually happens inside a for profit prison are all covered thoroughly in this book. This is my top nonfiction bo No matter your political leanings you should read this book. With nearly 2.5 million people in US prisons and our tax dollars paying for this mass incarceration it is important that all citizens understand what our prison industry is all about. The history of incarceration in the US; the conflicting goals of for profit prisons relative to the state goals; and this inside look at what actually happens inside a for profit prison are all covered thoroughly in this book. This is my top nonfiction book this year by far - mass incarceration is one of our most significant crises. What this author did took bravery, especially given his own history of incarceration in Iran. The tone of this book is factual and even compassionate as the author describes his own personal transformation working as a corrections officer. May this book help bring change to an unsustainable system.

  28. 4 out of 5

    b bb bbbb bbbbbbbb

    I hope this help will raise visibility about the huge crisis with prisons and incarceration in this country. The book is very readable and accessible, which should help to that end. There were a couple things that didn't sit quite right. For example, how the book wrapped up kind tidy and clean at the end. The author steps back to their regular life while the problems within the prison and prison system remain- with this kind of tragic and emotionally charged this subject matter there isn't really I hope this help will raise visibility about the huge crisis with prisons and incarceration in this country. The book is very readable and accessible, which should help to that end. There were a couple things that didn't sit quite right. For example, how the book wrapped up kind tidy and clean at the end. The author steps back to their regular life while the problems within the prison and prison system remain- with this kind of tragic and emotionally charged this subject matter there isn't really an easy way to wind down and step away. Yet it still feels a little too clean and crisp, even though the author hints that it may not be that way for themselves either. Perhaps more acknowledgement of that might it seem less abrupt. Another example- the follow up on one inmates release and subsequent return to jail feels a little voyeuristic, even if it is relevant to the narrative.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Deb Blackbourn

    Having worked in Government-run prisons, I was anxious to read this. This book took on private prisons. As I read this book, it became apparent that inmates are safer & treated better by government-run prisons. The laws governing government-run prisons are stricter laws. Private prisons seem to run by their own rules! Private prisons do not necessarily hire the best employees; some of their employees have criminal records themselves. The inmates in government-run prisons are protected for th Having worked in Government-run prisons, I was anxious to read this. This book took on private prisons. As I read this book, it became apparent that inmates are safer & treated better by government-run prisons. The laws governing government-run prisons are stricter laws. Private prisons seem to run by their own rules! Private prisons do not necessarily hire the best employees; some of their employees have criminal records themselves. The inmates in government-run prisons are protected for their safety. Medical treatment is better in government-run prisons. Private prisons make $$ by not paying their correctional officers a reasonable rate. After reading this book, I would rather work in a government-run prison. If I had a family member serving time as an inmate, I would rather have him/her in a government-run prison.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    Shane Bauer, who has the notoriety of being one of the young adults who was imprisoned for 2 years for stepping over the border in Iran has written a deeply disturbing and important novel. As a reporter for Mother Jones magazine, he decides to infiltrate the private penal system by applying to become a guard, to uncover the truth of what occurs in these private institutions. What he finds is harrowing and enlightening ,making this required reading for anyone who cares about inequalities . Altern Shane Bauer, who has the notoriety of being one of the young adults who was imprisoned for 2 years for stepping over the border in Iran has written a deeply disturbing and important novel. As a reporter for Mother Jones magazine, he decides to infiltrate the private penal system by applying to become a guard, to uncover the truth of what occurs in these private institutions. What he finds is harrowing and enlightening ,making this required reading for anyone who cares about inequalities . Alternating with chapters about his experience, he exposes the history and maturation of the penal system. The gross injustices of slave labor was transitioned to work labor for the private prisons all with the eye of making profits for the company. Difficult to read at times, but should be required reading particularly as private prisons have had an upsurge during the current presidency.

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