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

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

by Shane Bauer


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New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2018

One of President Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2018

Winner of the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735223608
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/11/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 24,260
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

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.

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American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Twink 4 months ago
Oh this one was eye-opening - and so very, very disturbing. Bauer used his own name when applying. If the references were checked they would have realized he was a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Bauer lasted four months, recording conversations and taking photos surreptitiously. What goes on inside the walls of this for profit prison is simply outrageous and egregious. Rehabilitation? That's a joke. People die in these places. The treatment of ill inmates was sickening. Bauer weaves the history of prisons in the south in his narrative. And that explained a lot. Using prisoners for profit is not a new idea. Hard to read, but this needs to be known by the public. An excellent exposé
B-loNY More than 1 year ago
A history lesson and a memoir