Monday, January 06, 2014

Behind Bars by Jeffrey Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards

Behind Bars: Surviving Prison, Jefrey Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards. Indianapolis: Alpha Books/Penguin, 2002. e-book, 173 pps.

I read through several books on how to prepare for prison and this was the one that I thought was the most valuable for soon-to-be convicts and their families. Behind Bars was written by two college professors who have had experience with incarceration-- one is an ex-con and the other was on the staff. This book tells it like it is. In spite of cries from some readers that "we need more positive prison literature" [huh?], there is no glossing over the facts about fighting and sex, the gangs and the drugs, giving birth in prison and the high recidivism rate. Because serving time isn't on most peoples' bucket lists. 

Behind Bars starts off with some stats about American prisoners and then walks the reader through the arrest process, the difference between jails and prisons, classification, getting to prison and what to do and not do once you get there, and getting out. There is a rundown on a "typical" day in a fed pen which has controlled movement. All the taxpayers who are screaming about how their/our tax dollars pay for prisoners to go to college can stop now. There are no Pell grants for convicts and haven't been since 1992. Cons (or their families) have to pay for any college courses. Although a meaningful education is a huge help in not returning to the prison system as a con, there are many barriers in the way. Prisoners are subject to almost instantaneous transfers. Wardens are threatened by the educated. Cons work in prisons for what is considered to be slave wages on the outside and then spend that money (added to their accounts) in the commissary where the markup is usually around 125 percent. The food is inedible and many fights break out in the chow hall. Hope that you do not get sick in prison. See a dentist if you can before arriving at prison-- some of the ones on the inside may be dedicated-- because you don't want to take your chances with the local hack surgeon. There is a ton of information in Behind Bars.

sapphoq reviews says: Ross and Richards have written an excellent book for those who are on their way to becoming convicts. Behind Bars should be read by anyone who is about to have a first contact with the legal justice system as a prisoner. The curious and the folks who figure they will never have to serve time behind bars [some innocent people do wind up in prison] will also find this book to be valuable. Highly recommended. 

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