Waiting for an Echo: The Madness of American Incarceration

Waiting for an Echo: The Madness of American Incarceration

by Christine Montross
Waiting for an Echo: The Madness of American Incarceration

Waiting for an Echo: The Madness of American Incarceration

by Christine Montross


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*L.A. Times Book Prize Finalist* 
*New York Times Book Review Paperback Row*
*New York Times Books to Watch for in July*
*Time Best New Books July 2020*

Galvanized by her work in our nation's jails, psychiatrist Christine Montross illuminates the human cost of mass incarceration and mental illness

Dr. Christine Montross has spent her career treating the most severely ill psychiatric patients. Several years ago, she set out to investigate why so many of her patients got caught up in the legal system when discharged from her care—and what happened to them therein.

Waiting for an Echo is a riveting, rarely seen glimpse into American incarceration. It is also a damning account of policies that have criminalized mental illness, shifting large numbers of people who belong in therapeutic settings into punitive ones.

The stark world of American prisons is shocking for all who enter it. But Dr. Montross's expertise—the mind in crisis—allowed her to reckon with the human stories behind the bars. A father attempting to weigh the impossible calculus of a plea bargain. A bright young woman whose life is derailed by addiction. Boys in a juvenile detention facility who, desperate for human connection, invent a way to communicate with one another from cell to cell. Overextended doctors and correctional officers who strive to provide care and security in environments riddled with danger. In these encounters, Montross finds that while our system of correction routinely makes people with mental illness worse, just as routinely it renders mentally stable people psychiatrically unwell. The system is quite literally maddening.

Our methods of incarceration take away not only freedom but also selfhood and soundness of mind. In a nation where 95 percent of all inmates are released from prison and return to our communities, this is a practice that punishes us all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594205972
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/21/2020
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Dr. Christine Montross, a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in General  Nonfiction, is an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a practicing inpatient psychiatrist. She is an award-winning poet and the author of Body of Work and Falling into the Fire.

Table of Contents

A Note on Names xiii

Introduction 1

I Our Prisoners

1 Three Hots and a Cot 17

2 How Are You on the Fourth of July? 38

3 Since Eleven 61

4 You Got Kids? 69

5 Jail, Not Yale 84

6 Born on Third Base 100

II Our Prisons

7 The Architecture of Control 109

8 The Lost People 124

9 Minnows and Killer Whales 157

10 Imagine Your Bathroom 178

III Our Choice

11 Nutraloaf 197

12 Better Neighbors 210

13 I Am Helping You 243

14 Good News 253

Acknowledgments 269

Notes 271

Bibliography 297

Index 319

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