Published February 11th, 2020
Prison literature is wide and varied. Its themes can range from bittersweet, poignant to downright disturbing. Stories about bravery, resilience, and redemption introduce us to what life in prison is really like.
If you’re keen to learn more about life behind bars, here are some of the best books about prison for 2020:
BY: ALBERT WOODFOX
This autobiography of Albert Woodfox (one of Angola 3) tells a story of extraordinary fortitude in the face of violence and injustice. Woodfox was serving a 50-year sentence in Angola prison when he joined the Black Panther Party in his early twenties. When a white guard was killed in 1972, the warden put Woodfox and a fellow Black Panther member in solitary confinement. That no concrete evidence was presented against them did not deter the warden. Their subsequent trial was nothing but a sham and it would take decades before they are to attain true justice.
His memoir is a devastating and insightful look at a justice system where skin color dictates your innocence. Truly an eye-opener for today’s generation.
LIFE AND DEATH IN RIKERS ISLAND
BY: HOMER VENTERS
Venter was the former chief medical officer for New York City’s Jails. In this book, he exposes the health risks inmates face behind bars. From general negligence in health care to sexual abuse and brutality, these health hazards seem to go on and on. What’s worse is, doctors and nurses are often coerced into complicity or silence. Featuring real inmate experiences, this book reveals harrowing facts and compelling data about the sorry state of medical affairs in US prisons. (Related: Top 5 Worst Prisons in the US)
JAILBIRDS: LESSONS FROM A WOMEN’S PRISON
BY: MIM SKINNER
The things we know about women’s prisons are often gathered from how it is portrayed in TV and movies. Most of them, unfortunately, are figments of some people’s imagination. To set the record straight, a UK women’s prison teacher and community worker details what life is really like for women inmates. If you’re looking for a light-hearted yet heartbreaking take on prison life, this book is for you. (Related: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Life in Women’s Prison)
I WILL NEVER SEE THE WORLD AGAIN
BY: AHMET ALTAN
Ahmet Altan was an award-winning writer before he himself would suffer the same fate as one of his novel’s main characters. Considered as one of today’s most important Turkish writers, he was sentenced to life in 2018 by the Turkish state. A victim of Erdogan’s oppressive regime, Altan is kept in solitary confinement in a 4-meter long cell.
This memoir, written from inside his prison cell, is a bittersweet account of the hope and realizations of someone whose life and dreams are crushed by other’s greed.
THE PRISON LETTERS OF NELSON MANDELA
BY: NELSON MANDELA
Nelson Mandela is one of the most inspiring figures in the 20th century. After being incarcerated for almost 30 years, he would go on to become the first black president of South Africa. His policy of breaking apart institutionalized racism and promoting racial reconciliation earned him the title “Father of the Nation”.
These collection of letters (most of which were unpublished) written from inside his prison cell lets us take a closer look at the man beyond his political persona.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of sharing knowledge. Having extensive experience in the prison industry, she wants to share what she knows with the world. Judy also loves to write about political and legal topics.