I borrowed this from one of my coworkers. Not to be alarmed, but she’s a little obsessed with prison books. :) After several months of coercion, I finally gave in and took this one to Hawaii with me. Couldn’t wait for the Non-Fiction Five coming in May!
In the late 1980s, Pete Earley was granted permission from the warden of Leavenworth, in Kansas, to extensively interview the prison’s staff and inmates for an unprecedented look into one of the more dangerous maximum-security prisons in the nation. Earley focuses on six inmates as well as a couple of guards and the warden over a two-year period of time. He writes about the crimes the inmates have committed, what life is like for them in prison, and how the guards handle the pressure of maintaining peace within the prison walls.
This book is hardcore. I’m not a rubbernecker (HUGE pet-peeve), but this book was like looking at a horrible accident. You just can’t look away. I was fascinated the entire way through–learning the stories and what makes some of these criminals tick. One of my roommates in college was a criminology major, so I’ve heard plenty of stories of crimes pre-arrest, but to learn about what goes on IN the prison was fascinating. There is a fair amount of violence and language in the book, but I didn’t feel it was excessive, especially given the topics.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was that Earley separated each chapter out by character with a thread of the Cuban prisoner situation running throughout the novel. But, only a partial part of the inmate’s/guard’s story was told in each chapter, so by the time I got back around to the person, I had forgotten the details. By the end, I could tell you a long list of things that happened, but I couldn’t tell you who committed what crime, what happened while that person was in prison, or what happened to them once the book was over (with the exception of a sociopath who spent most of the two years in solitary confinement). I’m not sure if there would have been a better way to present the material, and it could have been because I was on vacation and only reading a little bit here and there, but in the end everyone’s story was a little interchangeable.
Do I recommend it? Like I said–it’s hard to look away. Isn’t everyone just a little bit interested in the criminal mind and how it works? Even just a tinsy bit?