Monday, January 06, 2014

Inside by Michael G. Santos

Inside: Life Behind Bars in America. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007. e-book,  277 pps.

Michael G. Santos was sentenced to forty-five years for drug trafficking as a young man. Specifically, he headed up an informal organization that worked to get coke from Miami into the streets of Seattle. He was caught. He was arrested and went to court. He was locked up.

Inside talks about the author's own experiences inside the criminal justice system as an incarcerated inmate. By necessity, he describes some of what happens around him. He includes the language (curse words) but does not identify the ethnicity of any of the other inmates. This is not Michael Santos' first book. He has written several others about incarceration.

When Michael G. Santos first arrived in a prison, he determined that he had to do certain things in order to prepare himself for a life outside the walls. He obtained several degrees and while working for a doctorate, his access to education was cut off. He has been transferred several times during his sentence. Inside is a compendium of characters (with changed names and some details altered) that Santos has met during his imprisonment. It is also an indictment of the prison system itself.

sapphoq reviews says: Prisons are no longer considered to be rehabilitative. The purpose is punishment and separation from society for a period of time. A prisoner who concentrates on preparing for his release-- rather than just doing his time day to day-- is a rarity and a perceived threat to the security of a prison. Santos has been open about his writing in prison, not always with good results. The story that struck me the most was the one where a prison guard set up sex sessions with his wife for money. Some prisoners eagerly agreed to the guard's scheme. The guard and his willing wife made some extra money. 
     Michael G. Santos is not looking for pity, sympathy, or an ear upon which to scream about the horrors of prison life. His writing style is matter-of-fact. His education shows in his writing. Highly recommended.

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