Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Short and Sweet #4 - American Prison - Shane Bauer

What? Well, time flies and sometimes I just seem to run out of it! So, Short and Sweet will be just that - some brief thoughts on books I've read or listened to. And when you see S and S, chances are I'm either busy, tired or on vacation!

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

From the 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.

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."

My Thoughts:

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. Read an excerpt of American Prison.


bermudaonion said...

I agree with you on this 100%. I talked about this book a lot as I read it and have passed it on to several others.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

This sounds like an interesting read.

Luanne said...

Bermudaonion - I was stunned by this book - a must read.

Many Thoughts - most definitely - I couldn't believe this was all true and not a movie...

Mystica said...

Maybe this should be compulsory reading for pre uni students. How can people become aware of this horror unless its publicized.

Luanne said...

I agree Mystica!