A number of books have been written over the years about life in prison, including the autobiography of Bill Sands, who initiated a twelve-step program for prisoners, to the powerful descriptions of inmate violence and despair by Jack Abbott to the practical and enlightened essays of prisoner-turned-Buddhist Jarvis Masters. Living in Prison: A History of the Correctional System with an Insider's View by Stephen Stanko, Wayne Gillespie, and Gordon A. Crews adds another worthy volume to this topical area in criminal justice and criminology studies.
An interesting characteristic of this text lies in its organization. Professors Gillespie and Crews provide the reader with a useful overview of prisons in both a historical and systemic context. Their discussion includes criminal classification, prison organization, the rights of prisoners, women in prison, and prison violence and corruption. They provide a framework against which Steve Stanko, a prisoner, describes life in prison. The result is a stimulating interaction between the personal story of a prisoner and the academic observations of two criminologists.
Inmate Stanko offers an intimate narrative of his experiences, from pre-trial detention through the appeal process to all aspects of incarcerated life. Descriptions of food services, health care, violence, prisoner relationships, dealing with corrections officials, and attempting to maintain communication with family and friends remind the reader of the stark contrast between the “free world” and the world of prisons.
It is not enough that we observe, analyze, and describe life in prison from an outside vantage point. We also need to let prison life describe itself through the voices of those who have lived and worked in such environments. Each perspective provides a balancing point for the other. Personal recollections can be judged against what theories and research suggest as well as