In 2014, Shane Bauer was hired for 9Ù 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 become the most-read feature in the history of the magazine Mother Jones. Still, there was much more to say. In American Prison, Bauer weaves together a much deeper reckoning with his prison guard experience with a deep history of for-profit prisons in America, from their origins in the decades before the Civil War. As he soon realised, the cruelty of the current American system and its place in the larger story of mass incarceration cannot be understood without first understanding where it came from. Private prisons became entrenched in the South as part of a systematic effort to keep the African-American labour force in place in the aftermath of slavery, and the echoes of these shameful origins are still very much in place today.
The private prison system is deliberately unaccountable to public scrutiny. Private prisons are not incentivised 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 prisons sense of chaos. To his horror, Bauer finds himself becoming crueller and more aggressive the longer he works in the prison, and he is far from alone.
A blistering accusation of the private prison system in America, and the powerful forces that drive it, American Prison is a necessary human document about the true face of justice in America.
Paperback: 368 Pages
Product Dimensions: 138 x 214 mm
Published by Prentice House Press