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American Prison
Cover of American Prison
American Prison
A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment
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An enraging, necessary look at the private prison system, and a convincing clarion call for prison reform.” —NPR.orgNew York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2018 * One of...
An enraging, necessary look at the private prison system, and a convincing clarion call for prison reform.” —NPR.orgNew York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2018 * One of...
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  • An enraging, necessary look at the private prison system, and a convincing clarion call for prison reform.” —NPR.org

    New York Times Book Review
     10 Best Books of 2018 * One of President Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2018 * 
    Winner of the 2019 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize * Winner of the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism * Winner of the 2019 RFK Book and Journalism Award * 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.
 

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About the Author-

  • SHANE BAUER is a senior reporter for Mother Jones and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Best Reporting. His writing has appeared in The Nation, Salon, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Christian Science Monitor. He's received the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism, the John Jay Award for Criminal Justice Reporting, and the Media for a Just Society Award. 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-

  • AudioFile Magazine This has to be one of the best nonfiction audiobooks of the year, with a narrator performance to match. Bauer, a journalist, went undercover to take a job in a Louisiana prison run by Corrections Corporation of America. The result is an important, riveting look at what the United States is doing to people who are incarcerated or who work in the for-profit incarceration industry. James Fouhey is an utterly compelling narrator, partly because he has so many voices to work with--those of Bauer, other guards, inmates, even the corporate executives. Mostly though, Fouhey is captivating because he convincingly portrays people of different races, genders, and educational levels without a false note. A first-rate listen. G.S.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine

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