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Inside: Life Behind Bars in America Paperback – June 26, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (June 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312343507
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312343507
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1987, during the height of the Reagan administration's "Just say no" campaign, 21-year-old Santos received a 45-year sentence for his involvement in the distribution of large amounts of cocaine. Now, after nearly 20 years in jail, Santos has devoted himself to making the best out of his incarceration. Having received a B.A. and M.A. from accredited universities, he spends much of his free time reading and writing about the U.S. criminal system. Here, he uses his insider perspective to provide a blunt, often disturbing look at America's prison system. More anecdotal than personal or analytical, his account illustrates the presence of gangs, drugs, prostitution and rape in prison through a series of dramatized stories. Although the dialogue is at times overwrought, the stories themselves are shocking and illuminating. Together they paint a picture of prison culture and its dehumanizing effects on the people who live within it. The book also functions beyond its role as an exposé, effectively questioning the efficacy of modern prisons. Santos rejects the idea that the "correctional system" does much correcting, and provides repeated examples of the sense of hopelessness inmates suffer during their sentences. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"More than just a seamy look at prison life. A chilling, timely portrayal."--New York Times Book Review
"Inside is actually two books. The red meat of the book is a collection of more than 100 prisoners' accounts, including every gruesome detail… But between shocking tales of inmate misbehavior are Santos' convincing theories about what it all means."--Sean Bosker, New York Post
"The tone and his focus on other inmates' experiences rather than his own lend the book weight and authenticity, opening a window onto the corrupt, violent and ultimately counter-productive society of American prisons."--Edward Humes, Los Angeles Times
"Shocking and illuminating." --Publishers Weekly
"Inside is not recommended for the faint at heart. Santos eloquently and engagingly captures the subculture of the prisoner. Inside is a must-read." --Sam Torres, Ph.D., Professor of Criminal Justice, California State University, Long Beach, and Senior U.S. Probation Officer (Ret.)

Customer Reviews

This books is very well written and hard to put down.
Santos has produced is a really well written book, about a part of life most of us never see--the inside of the federal prison system.
Alan Mills
It will open your eyes about what really happens behind those walls.
Frederick S. Goethel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By P. Meltzer on July 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thought that this book was excellent. I have read a number of books on prisons and prison life and I have to say that this is one of the best and most interesting I have ever read. It would also be a difficult book to duplicate because how often is it that a Michael Santos-type (i.e. a highly literate, very good and observant writer) would find himself behind bars for 20 years in virtually every kind of secutity level, from high-security on down? Other books are from those who have never actually lived in prison or who have been in low-level security prisons only or who do not share his eloquence on the page. I really recommend this book.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Angela on September 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Three things that struck me as I read Inside, were these:

1. The rigorous honesty of Mr. Santos.

2. The absolute accuracy of Mr. Santos' 'ear' for jargon, slang and prison profanity

3. The overwhelming sense of clarity I received regarding Mr. Santos' sense of who he was, who he now is, and how he became the man he is today.

Translation: Possibly the best 'prison' book I've ever read next to 'In the Belly of the Beast" by Jack Henry Abbott.

Mr. Santos' doesn't come close to Mr. Abbott's often times overwrought and dense philosophies regarding prison life (Abbott wrote more in essay form, as Santos writes more in narrative form) but then, Abbott's book was compiled from a series of letters written to Norman Mailer, so Abbott was hitting, through his writing, one-way line drives into the catcher's mitt of his audience. Mr. Santos is telling us a story here, and so his writing has the natural ebbs and flows of a story, whereas Abbott's book is simply a red-hot laser of accusation, opinion and deep, dark thought - very deep and dark thought.

What I found validating however, was how Mr. Santos stood to-to-toe with with Mr. Abbott on 'just the facts' of [life in] a penitentiary and how he also stood on even footing with another proven and literary award-winning prison author, Edward Bunker. Even decades after Mr. Bunker's incarcerations at Folsom and San Quentin prisons, and the subsequent books he produced (some of which were turned into films) including, 'No Beast So Fierce," and 'The Animal Factory,' Mr. Santos writes as if he were a contemporary of Mr. Bunker's, proving perhaps his, and Mr.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By C. McPherson on September 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Michael Santos has written an important book for all Americans--but especially those who are concerned about the operation of Federal prisons and the lives of the prisoners. He takes us inside prisons at every level of the Federal prison system and tells us of his experiences in them. His information comes from his own journals, which he has kept since the beginning of his incarceration, and from court records of criminal acts which have occurred inside some of the prisons. The picture which emerges is frightening, with prisoners at the mercy, sometimes, of sadistic guards and prison officials, and of their fellow inmates. There is much which is wrong with the operation of our prison system, and it at last is possible to find credible information on which revised policies might be based. By writing this book, Michael Santos has made a valuable contribution to the prison system and to the citizens of this country.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Hotel on February 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is clear from his writing that Santos is an intelligent guy who, like many other sophisticated criminals, opted for a different career path. His stories about life behind bars are fascinating. He describes tiptoeing around gangbangers and rapists without attracting unwanted attention, watching female guards prostitute themselves with inmates, and struggling to pursue a secondary education despite the efforts of wardens to restrict his access to college courses. If you have any delusions about the harshness of America's federal drug laws, or the reality of life in prison (Andy Dufresne and Otis Redding idly smoking and playing checkers this ain't), this book will shatter them.

But set aside the juicy stuff, and too much of this book comprises Santos' windy complaints about the failings of the American prison system: its tendency to encourage recidivism rather than equip inmates with useful vocational training and education, for example, or its dehumanizing treatment of prisoners. These themes reappear again and again, and then again, and again. His points are, of course, well-taken; these arguments have been made for decades by scholars and inmates alike. They just could have been said in far fewer words. In fairness, if I were serving 45 years in federal prison, with nothing but time on my hands, my writing likely would suffer from a lack of conciseness too.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Michel Bisaillon on March 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have been a CO for about 17 years. Mr. Santos's observances are 100% right. This is a book that should be read by everyone who works in the system. First of all, the fact that our jails and prisons stiffle education among inmates is in my opinion the true message of this work. What we do in our facilities is so archaic it is mind boggling. We take mostly young males from a demographic of 19-27 and throw them into these dungeons; and then make it our main goal to prevent them from being assholes for the shift. Hey now that is lofty! Don't be productive, don't do crime and most of all please don't learn. I witnessed first hand the results when our government cut the school teachers out of the budget. Only the odd inmate will find a way to grow. Why? Well try telling a young person who is probably poor, got an addiction problem and has been programed from the time they are infants that violence solves all problems. "Sit and learn will yha." Geezzz, wonder why we have difficulties? It is assinine. The book left me questioning how many other people like this guy we are allowing to waste away for no other reason than we fail to be progressive in our thinking. Please don't tell me it is a money issue. We would save allot of money if we could develop abilities. It is a time in their lives when they have no where else to go and what do we do? Instead of finding the most productive means of building them as people, we watch most of them play cards, watch tv and talk bullshit.

The other thing that Santos' book shows is that even the toughest, roughest firebreather eventually, gets old, sick and tired (often all three at the same time) and begins to reflect. I have seen this often. What if that same person had the tools that formal education provides?
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Inside: Life Behind Bars in America
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