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

Shane Bauer

"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 ... In [this book], Bauer weaves a ... reckoning with his experiences together with a ... history of for-profit prisons in America from their origins in the decades before the Civil War"--

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Book Information

Publisher: Penguin Press
Publish Date: 09/18/2018
Pages: 368
ISBN-13: 9780735223585
ISBN-10: 0735223580
Language: English

What We're Saying

October 03, 2018

Our owner and CEO takes a look inside the country's prison industrial complex, and its long history, through the lens of journalist Shane Bauer's new book. READ FULL DESCRIPTION

December 19, 2018

Company owner and CEO Rebecca Schwartz looks inside the covers of the top five Narrative & Biography books of 2018. READ FULL DESCRIPTION

September 05, 2018

These are just some of the books we'll be getting between the covers of in September. READ FULL DESCRIPTION

Full Description

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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