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Prison Nation - The Oregonian 2003

The Oregonian, Jan. 1, 2003.
Book Review - Prison Nation - The Oregonian 2003

The Sunday Oregonian

February 23, 2003 Sunday



PRISON NATION, Tara Herivel and Paul Wright, editors Routledge, $19.95 paperback, 332 pages

"Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America's Poor" unlocks a world many Americans know nothing about. The book, which includes writings from prisoners, social critics, lawyers and investigative reporters, testifies to the current state of America's prisoners' living conditions and social concerns.

An introduction by author Ken Silverstein lays out the scale of the problems: "During the past two decades, the American prison population has climbed from 300,000 to more than two million -- roughly equal to the combined population of Austin, Denver, Nashville, and Washington, D.C. Largely because of racially biased drug sentencing laws, about half of America's prison population is African American and one-quarter of all black men are likely to be imprisoned at some point during their lifetimes."

Section headings include "Making a Buck Off the Prisoner's Back," "The Private Prison Industry," Malign Neglect: Prison Medicine," "Rape, Racism and Repression," and "The Bars to Prison Litigation." Topics include the injustices of prison privatization, class and race in the justice system, the nation's drug war, the prison AIDS crisis and a judicial system that favors those with economic resources.

Paul Wright, a prisoner at Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington state, is a jailhouse lawyer, political activist and journalist. Wright is the co-founder of Prison Legal News, a monthly magazine published since 1990 that is written and edited by prisoners. His last book was "The Celling of America." Tara Herivel is a prisoners' rights activist and lawyer who has written for Prison Legal News and other periodicals in the Seattle area.

-- Peggy McMullen

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