In all fairness to author Anna Clark at AlterNet, the full title of the article is 10 Books About Prison That Will Make You Rethink the United States Penal System, as if it's somehow a well-kept secret that the USA now has a greater percentage of its population behind bars than any other industrial country in the world.
It's only a secret if you have no eyes or ears, or if you happen to rely on the penal system for your livelihood. If you live in the world of facts, it's a well-known reality.
It's a beautifully researched article and you should absolutely click over to the page and read the whole thing, but a few highlights for those of you who prefer the quick and dirty version:
1. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
Where have all the black men gone? To jail, mostly.
2. On the Yard, Malcolm Braly
Take s good, long look at the people inside San Quentin prison ca. 1967.
3. Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, Ted Conover
Conover's report of his year as an correctional officer at Sing Sing.
4. Are Prisons Obsolete?, Angela Y. Davis
Hint: yes, unless you make money off them. (And there is a lot of money to be made off prisons.)
5. The Exonerated: A Play, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen
You're mistakenly sent to death row, then by pure luck you're proved innocent. They release you back into society. Now what?
6. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Michel Foucault
The history of the modern prison. Essential reading.
7. Soledad Brother, George Jackson
If you need proof that being black in America constitutes a crime, read this. If you don't need proof, read it anyway.
8. Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean
The movie was good, but the book is infinitely more nuanced.
9. The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Solzhenitsyn literally wrote the book on the Soviet prison system. It's been required reading for Russian high school students for the last 20 years.
10. De Profundis, Oscar Wilde
Wilde did two years of hard labor in English prison for "acts of gross indecency" with other men. Ernest, indeed.
Clark provides a reading list of a dozen or so more titles, so definitely click on over and start reading.