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Inside: Life Behind Bars in America Paperback – June 26, 2007
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Michael G. Santos, a federal prisoner nearing the end of his second decade of continuous confinement, documents the lives of the men warehoused in the American prison system. Inside: Life Behind Bars in America, his first book for the general public, takes us behind those bars and into the chaos of the cellblock.
Capturing the voices of his fellow prisoners with perfect pitch, Santos makes the tragic--and at times inspiring--stories of men from the toughest gang leaders to the richest Wall Street criminals come alive. From drug schemes, murders for hire, and even a prostitution ring that trades on the flesh of female prison guards, this book contains the never-before-seen details of prison life that at last illuminate the varied ways in which men experience life behind bars in America.
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This book is filled with lots of things that would make even the most liberal minded censor cringe. The pure honesty of Inside: Life Behind Bars in America lends itself to frank talk about extremely unsettling subjects. Inside: Life Behind Bars in America explores gang related behavior, ghetto life, discriminitory drug war policing, proverty and issues associated with class when applied to federal prisons. Inside: Life Behind Bars in America goes into detail showing how issues of class and economic security play out in determining your placement within the vast federal prison industrial complex.
Some federal prisons are essentially pits from the inner circle of hell graphically explored and laid bare at your feet as you read parts of Inside: Life Behind Bars in America. Other Federal prisons are certainly not country clubs by any stretch of the imagination. Yet life in Federal Prison camps are still a far cry from the land of sodom & gammorah that reigns unchallenged in most large federal prisons that house the poor ignorant unwashed masses. Inside: Life Behind Bars in America reveals that even the prison camps that are safest in the system aren't perfect.
I suggest that the American people are fully aware of and condone the full extent of horrors that occur regularly in Federal, State and Local prisons we as a society just don't give a darn what happens to antisocial gang members & criminals. The average US Citizen wants criminals locked away like the animals they way too often prove themselves to be. The cruelty, the sadism, the pain, the many forms of abuse that are the mainstays of prison life is exactly what the American people want in their prisons. In todays get tough on crime climate few people want prisons to be colleges or merit based facilities where criminals and low life go to be coddled and nurtured by caring and compassionate professionals.
Criminals by definition hurt hard working US law biding Citizens people without regard for their humanity and the natural response is to want to hurt the criminal in return. The Federal, State and Local prison systems are the incarnation of hell only because; society feels if criminals want to act like animals it will provide huge prison mega-plexes that serve as drug infested, sexually peverse, psychotically antisocial zoo's. What Michael G. Santos advocates for is spot on right. Prisons DO create a negative incentive that does more to harden criminals than to civilize them into being productive citizens. In US Prisons the term Correctional Officer is a lie since the goal of prisons as currently constituted is to punish offenders not rehabilitate or correct.
I love Inside: Life Behind Bars in America not because; I agree with everything the author says or proposes. I love Inside: Life Behind Bars in America because its honesty and candor made me think about prisons, gangs and all the elements in our society that shape them in new ways. If I had it to do I'd give twenty stars to Inside: Life Behind Bars in America in my review I feel that strongly about the need of this message to be heard, understood and explored. Thank you for writing this most awesome book, Michael G. Santos and congratulations for doing your time and turning your life around. I pray you are an inspiration to others has you have been to me. God Bless you sir!
What I most respect about him is not that he cleaned his life up: lots of inmates have done that. The part that has me in awe is how he got an education through determination in the face of resistance. There's an article EthicsDaily in which writer Colin Harris calls Santos a "rare success in prison rehabilitation." What an insult to Santos! Santos makes it burningly obvious in his writings that he got educated despite prison policies, not thanks to them.
As for this book in particular, I'm not sorry I bought it and I'm not sorry I read it.
Admittedly, it starts out a little slow and preachy, but about 40% of the way it really picks up when Santos starts telling stories of the inmates and guards. The part of the book that had me sitting bolt upright, though, was the final 3rd, the stories of the fenceless minimum security camp, as strange as that might sound. That was the real page-turning part for me. The multi-million dollar businessman waxing the floor? The South African hauled into prison for catching too many rock lobsters? Unbelievable.
Santos's message is one a lot of people could get behind. It's got three prongs:
1. America's prisons have become a business, which increases the number of prisoners and the taxes necessary to pay for them, all without bringing any benefit to the country.
2. The conditions in jails ensure there will be more future prisoners.
3. Prisons should be more welcoming of inmates' efforts to better themselves. As it is, they don't seem to care except irregularly and insincerely.
Regrettably, I cannot fully get behind Santos except on the first point. One of the things I think it's impossible for him to take on board is that prisons are supposed to be unpleasant, humiliating places. They're not hotels. So the message that prisoners aren't allowed to do this or that or are submitted to one indignity after another is, I think, not going to get much traction: most citizens are aware of this and are fine with it. Society wants these people to suffer, not merely be confined. Seen this way, abusive prison guards and demeaning prison regulations are just a way of giving society what it wants.
Then there is the matter of whether educating yourself should result in less jail time. Santos is a strong backer of this idea, and he has me half-convinced. But I wonder how he'd respond to the following objections:
1. That might be okay for victimless crimes, such as catching an endangered species or cheating on taxes. But what about crimes like rape and murder? The victims have rights, too: in particular, the right to see the offender punished to the last jot and tittle of the law. Suppose somebody close to you were violently killed. The perpetrator is arrested and sentenced to ten years. How would you feel if he's let out in only 7 because he cracked open an algebra book? Don't victims in such cases have a right to see the offenders fully punished?
2. How is the idea of "improving yourself for early release" supposed to work in cases where people already have mad job skills, such as in the case of hackers who wind up in prison? Not everybody in the joint is a street thug. Suppose there's a math professor who kills his wife. How would Santos's program work in his case? Is he supposed to get an automatic discount off his sentence because he already has marketable job skills?
Most recent customer reviews
'Inside' is, first, accessible and well composed, with a simple, appropriate format that conveys the facts in a minimally...Read more