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Publisher's Summary

A groundbreaking and brave inside reckoning with the nexus of prison and profit in America in one Louisiana prison and over the course of our country's history. 

In 2014, Shane Bauer was hired for $9 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. Four months later, his employment came to an abrupt end. But he had seen enough, and in short order he wrote an exposé about his experiences that won a National Magazine Award and became the most-read feature in the history of the magazine Mother Jones. 

Still, there was much more that he needed to say. In American Prison, Bauer weaves a much deeper reckoning with his experiences together with a thoroughly researched history of for-profit prisons in America from their origins in the decades before the Civil War. For, as he soon realized, we can't understand the cruelty of our current system and its place in the larger story of mass incarceration without understanding where it came from. Private prisons became entrenched in the South as part of a systemic effort to keep the African-American labor force in place in the aftermath of slavery, and the echoes of these shameful origins are with us still.  

The private prison system is deliberately unaccountable to public scrutiny. Private prisons are not incentivized to tend to the health of their inmates, or to feed them well, or to attract and retain a highly trained prison staff. Though Bauer befriends some of his colleagues and sympathizes with their plight, the chronic dysfunction of their lives only adds to the prison's sense of chaos. To his horror, Bauer finds himself becoming crueler and more aggressive the longer he works in the prison, and he is far from alone.  

A blistering indictment of the private prison system and the powerful forces that drive it, American Prison is a necessary human document about the true face of justice in America.

©2018 Shane Bauer (P)2018 Penguin Audio

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  • Frank
  • Mill Cree, Washington
  • 09-23-18

Disgusting

We never really ended slavery, only rebranded it as prison labor. The modern version is the privatized prison. They kept that guy in prison for a year after his time was up. Why? He had no place to go. So, they pay practically nothing, take it back in commissary, provide no job training, then keep you in prison because you have no place to go because you have no money. We need to end this evil system. I'm writing to my state representative.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Intense

Enjoyable, interesting, intense. Once I started listening on Audible, I couldn’t stop until I was completely finished. A bit too much detail on the history of U.S. prisons, but all in all satisfying. Great work by the author on exposing the truth about private prisons in America.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Dark, entertaining, and informative.

Quite possibly one of the most entertaining non-fiction books I’ve ever read. A glimpse into the twisted world of the American prison system that will throw you into an emotional whirlwind of anger, sadness, and hopelessness.

An important read if we are ever going to fix this deeply broken piece of our society. We have 4% of the world’s population yet 1/4 of its prisoners. The goal seems to be to make prison profitable, not to rehabilitate criminals. If you are a true patriot and care about the USA, you’ll read this book!

The narration is very well done also.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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It's a scary book.

Shane Bauer was brutally honest - that's why I recommend the book. He describes prison conditions and how it shaped his character in 4 short months. Prison immersion changes people, believe it.

Government allows private prisons because they're cheaper, plain and simple. By the end of the book, one understands this forward and backward.

The book gives a window into how things actually work in private prisons, the cold logic that prevails while most of the rest falls off. It's difficult for the mind to reconcile such differences, but one learns to accept them.

The scary thing is how the historical sections of the book don't support any reason to hope things are going to get better.


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Very Entertaining Audiobook

Narrator and journalist nailed it in this book. It’s difficult to stop listening during it. It’s one of those books that leaves you wishing it didn’t end..

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Wow!

This is an amazing investigative journey. The way the author gives historical lesson while he works as an undercover guard is fantastic. He takes a gut wrenching look at the history of warehousing people for money.

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  • j isenberg
  • Los Angeles, CA United States
  • 10-21-18

Troubling and Excellent

The narrative and performance were outstanding. The book is a powerful indictment of allowing private business to administer criminal justice.

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  • Ellen
  • DOVER, OH, United States
  • 10-19-18

Wow

I have a friend that’s been in prison for 43 years and I had no idea at all what he might have went through. I don’t think he’s in a private prison though so perhaps his day wasn’t as bad as this book is telling us. I was also shocked at the history of prisoners and prisons, very very shocked. Our country should be very ashamed.

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Required reading

This book should be required reading in every high school civics class and in every US history class in both high school and college. Bauer has given an account of something hidden from the public eye that everyone should know. Riveting, accessible and eye-opening. Also read on Audible with perfection.

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A history of slavery and an explanation of how it continues.

This is an insiders account of how corrupted and despicable the American prison system is.

Everything is a commodity. Everything is a for-profit venture in a system as parasitic as ours.

Other countries such as Norway genuinely try to rehabilitate their criminals. America only seems them as yet another source of profit.

Don’t turn away. Read. We must understand how the system works if we are to fight it.