An exposé on the cruelty and corruption of privately run prisons across the United States, with a focus on the Winn facility in Louisiana, from an National Magazine Award-winning investigative reporter who went undercover as a prison guard there.
American Prison is both the remarkable story of a journalist who spent four months working as a corrections officer, and a horrifying exposé of how prisoners were treated by a corporation that profited from them ... Bauer's insights into what some call the 'prison-industrial complex' are fascinating, and the history he provides offers crucial context into his time working at a CCA facility. It's Bauer's investigative chops, though, that make American Prison so essential ... The stories he tells are deeply sad and consistently infuriating ... American Prison is an enraging, necessary look at the private prison system, and a convincing clarion call for prison reform.
American Prison reprises [Baurer's] page-turning narrative [from Mother Jones], and adds not only the fascinating back story of CCA, the nation’s first private prison company, but also an eye-opening examination of the history of corrections as a profit-making enterprise, of which the advent of the private prisons that now house 8 percent of American inmates is only the latest chapter ... Bauer is a generous narrator with a nice ear for detail, and his colleagues come across as sympathetic characters, with a few notable exceptions. In a wonderful twist, he interviews a number of them after his deception is eventually exposed. How much loyalty does $9 per hour buy? About as much as you’d imagine; most are all too happy to help pull the curtain back on CCA.
An undercover reporter, he meticulously and evocatively described the conditions of the prison ... Bauer intersperses...searing first-person accounts with a history of the private-prison system ... American Prison paints a damning portrait of T. Don Hutto, co-founder and former CEO of the [prison's] corporation ... Bauer holds out little hope of any legitimate reform: 'If CCA raised guards’ wages, hired enough staff, and provided adequate staff, it would lose its profit margins ... If, on the other hand, states raised their rates to cover the costs of reforms, they would no longer be saving money, which means there would be no reason for them to rely on private companies to run their prisons.' As American Prison tragically makes clear, the weight of this paradox lands on the shoulders of the people in the prison system.