A ground-breaking 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. The expose he wrote about his experiences won a National Magazine Award and became the most-read feature in the history of the magazine Mother Jones. Still, there was much more to say. In American Prison, Bauer weaves a much deeper reckoning with his prison guard experience together with a deep history of for-profit prisons in America from their origins in the decades before the Civil War. 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, humanity, or safety, of their inmates, or to employ a highly-trained staff. Though Bauer befriends some of his colleagues, 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.
Story Locale: Louisiana Penguin: Penguin Books Spring 2019
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books, June 2019
Product Dimensions: 8.4 L × 5.5 W × 0 H
* Subject to availability