Top Pick in Audio, November 2018
The United States imprisons a higher portion of its population than any other country in the world, and roughly 130,000 inmates are in privately owned, for-profit prisons. Less than a decade ago, Shane Bauer, a senior reporter for Mother Jones, unknowingly crossed into Iran while hiking and was held for 26 months in an Iranian jail. In 2014, to investigate life inside a corporately run penitentiary, Bauer took a low-paying job as a guard at a facility in Winnfield, Louisiana, owned by the Corrections Corporation of America (now rebranded as CoreCivic). His on-the-ground reporting in American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment is powerful and disturbing. The conditions he experienced at Winnfield were horrendous, from dangerous understaffing that left prisoners with no classes and few activities, to subminimal medical care, unbridled sexual harassment and pervasive violence. And Bauer’s incisive examination of how the profit motive has shaped our prison system since the end of slavery amplifies his indictment. James Fouhey expertly narrates this vital exposé.