Cover image for American prison : a reporter's undercover journey into the business of punishment
Title:
American prison : a reporter's undercover journey into the business of punishment
Author:
Bauer, Shane, author.
ISBN:
9780735223585
Personal Author:
Physical Description:
351 pages ; 25 cm.
Abstract:
"A ground-breaking 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 expose 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"-- Provided by publisher.

"A ground-breaking 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. IIn 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 expose 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"-- Provided by publisher.

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Corning - Southeast Steuben County Library 1 365.973 BAU New NonFiction Book
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Cuba Circulating Library Association 1 POLITICAL & SOCIAL SCIENCE 365.973 BAU New NonFiction Book
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Hornell Public Library 1 365.973 BAU Adult NonFiction Book
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Horseheads Free Library 1 365.973 BAU New NonFiction Book
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Penn Yan Public Library 1 365.973 BAU New NonFiction Book
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Watkins Glen Public Library 1 365.973 BAU New books
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Wellsville - David A. Howe Public Library 1 365.973 BAU New NonFiction Book
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Summary

Summary

New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2018

One of President Barack Obama's favorite books of 2018

A New York Times Notable Book

A ground-breaking 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.


Author Notes

Shane Bauer is a senior reporter for Mother Jones . He is the recipient of the National Magazine Award for Best Reporting, Harvard's Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, Atlantic Media's Michael Kelly Award, the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism, and at least 20 others. Bauer is the co-author, along with Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal, of a memoir, A Sliver of Light, which details his time spent as a prisoner in Iran.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Bauer's amazing book examines one of slavery's toxic legacies, using convicted people to make profit, through a dual approach. The first is historical, tracing southern states' exploitation of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery and forced labor except as punishment for a crime. Convicts could be legally forced to labor, and a variety of sadistic tortures increased their productivity significantly over free labor. This loophole incentivized the incarceration of large numbers of mostly African American people. Convict labor leasing created much infrastructure in the South, popularized the chain gang, and often led to convicts' deaths. Bauer's second approach details his personal account of the four months in 2014-15 during which he worked as a correctional officer in a Louisiana prison, earning $9 per hour, for the Corrections Corporation of America. Frustrated with the lack of transparency and accountability in the for-profit prison industry, Bauer went undercover in hope of obtaining accurate information. Bauer also examines his own motivations, ethics, and behavior during this period and does not spare himself. In short, he observes an acutely dangerous and out-of-control environment created by CCA's profit-driven underpaying of staff and understaffing of prisons. Bauer's historical and journalistic work should be required reading.--Emily Dziuban Copyright 2018 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Deprivation, abuse, and fear oppress inmates and guards alike in this hard-hitting exposé of the for-profit prison industry. Mother Jones reporter Bauer, who wrote about being imprisoned in Iran for two years in A Sliver of Light, hired on as a guard in 2014 at Louisiana's Winn Correctional Center, a private prison run by Corrections Corporation of America (now CoreCivic). Equipped with a hidden camera and recorder, he found a snake pit of exploited labor and substandard correctional services. Bauer and his fellow guards were understaffed (sometimes three guards for a 352-prisoner unit), paid $9 an hour, poorly trained, and afraid of inmates; prison management veered between chaotic laxness and brutal crackdowns. With a $34-per-day-per-inmate budget, the prison axed educational and recreational programs and fatally skimped on health care (one inmate Bauer met lost both legs after officials failed to hospitalize him for an infection; another hanged himself after his suicide threats were ignored). Bauer vividly depicts Winn's poisonous culture as he finds himself succumbing to its mind-set of paranoid authoritarianism ("Striving to treat everyone as human takes too much energy. More and more I focus on proving I won't back down"). In addition, he sets his reportage in the context of a history of for-profit incarceration in the South that is rife with racism and torture. The result is a gripping indictment of a bad business. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Bauer (A Sliver of Light) spent four months in 2014 as a corrections officer for a private prison in small-town Louisiana. His real job, though, was as an investigative journalist for Mother Jones. He applied, interviewed, and was hired without a comprehensive background check even though he used his real name. During training and his subsequent work with the prisoners, he found himself getting more brutal and losing sense of his humanity. Alternate chapters cover his time as an officer and the historical evolution of for-profit prisons in the United States. These chapters look back to the English prisoners sent to America as indentured servants, pre-Civil War laws and punishment, the development of penitentiaries, and ultimately the privately run prisons of today. Narrator James Fouhey performs excellently, covering Bauer's emotional range from sympathy to rage. The author's perspective is further informed by the two years he spent as a prisoner in Iran after he wandered too close to their border. VERDICT Those who relish learning about the American prison system, especially private prisons, will appreciate this audiobook. Fans of investigative journalism and embedded explorations in dangerous occupations will find this valuable. ["This informative book will surely find many passionate readers": LJ 10/15/18 review of the Penguin hc.]- Jason L. Steagall, formerly with Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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