Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Inside: Life Behind Bars in America” as Want to Read:
Inside: Life Behind Bars in America
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Inside: Life Behind Bars in America

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  393 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Before Orange is the New Black, there was Inside.

American jails and prisons confine nearly 13.5 million people each year. Despite these disturbing numbers, little is known about life inside beyond the mythology of popular culture.

Michael G. Santos, a federal prisoner nearing the end of his second decade of continuous confinement, documents the lives of the men warehoused
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 26th 2007 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Inside, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Inside

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Darcia Helle
Dec 04, 2009 Darcia Helle rated it it was amazing
Michael Santos was arrested on a nonviolent drug charge during the 1980s, when our government was treating drug suppliers like terrorists. Santos had never been in trouble, had no violence or gun charges associated with the drug distrubution. Yet he was given a 45 year sentence to be served in the Federal prison system.

His journey began in a supermax prison, where he was housed with hardcore lifers, gangbangers, rapists, and men who murdered for pleasure. He was in his early 20s when his sentenc
Karen Wherlock
Mar 03, 2013 Karen Wherlock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a weakness for a prison memoir. I volunteered several times at a federal penitentiary ten years ago and it made a huge impact on me. I always remember the victims, but the men I met moved me. Should someone go to jail for twenty years or more for a victimless crime? Is anyone ever rehabilitated from even a heinous crime? I have to believe in people's capacity for change. I think reform is needed. I think that people in prison who will be released should take relationship and parenting cla ...more
Jen Chang
Jan 27, 2012 Jen Chang rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazing. It goes in depth to what goes on behind bars. It's an objective portrayal of the prison system, as Santos examines both the hard core prisoners as well as the more docile and naive prisoners. He tells everyone's stories, and really gets to the core of the problems of the criminal justice system. There are so many problems that people don't realize that exist in this undocumented world. Once you're in the world of a prisoner, you lose all your basic human rights. Even if pe ...more
Aug 01, 2008 Joel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social
Liberals and conservatives alike should read more about our prison system and this book does a decent job of exposing its pitfalls as well as its place in society. It is not for the faint of heart...or stomach.
Rebecca Grace
Apr 22, 2010 Rebecca Grace rated it it was ok
So far, alright. Informative, but I really don't have that much empathy for many of the 'characters' he presents... or the author himself. I'm more of a 'victim's rights' activist, as opposed to a 'prisoners' rights' advocate. That said, I like to be informed from the perspectives on either side of the fence.

Ok. so, this book was alright, it was a lot more like... a text book with stories than a memoir itself. The author is still in jail and won't be out until 2013, and I guess even finishing a
Elizabeth Nesbit-comer
Having read a few prison memoirs, this book didn't really bring anything new to the table. Michael Santos wants prisoners to be treated with more respect and less like animals. The only problem with his cause is that he shows exactly how these gang members have no respect for anyone but themselves and act like animals who strike out with violence at the slighest provication... sometimes to implied territory disputes. Does he really think that any of these "thugs" who are only about getting drug ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Michael Santos' writes about his incarceration in the federal justice system. It is a strong read, a rough ride, at times graphic, at times not graphic enough.

I got a lot of looks reading this book on the airplane. It's cover photo the back of an inmate in an orange jumpsuit his hands handcuffed together, his wristband ID under the cuffs caught a lot of people's eye. I don't recommend you carry it through airport security, or to you local courtroom.

I have a profound personal interest in the cr
Frank Tatum
Mar 19, 2015 Frank Tatum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truth about American.prisons

Today's prisons are full of drug addicts and dealers. Yes, you have murder and rapist, along with child molesters, but, Americans are wasting billions on drug addiction in the wrong way. Our prisons do not rehabilitate anyone. Not is there any correction going on. We are locking up more people than any other country in the world and have turned prisons into a Business that eats billions of tax dollars with nothing to show for it. After reading this book, you will be m
Marshall Cain
Mar 14, 2015 Marshall Cain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished reading Inside: Life Behind Bars In America, and while the Steven Bomb distracted me for a few days, I should probably still talk about it.

I brought up the book often while I was reading it, Michael Santos, the author, brought up a wide variety of stories about his time incarcerated in American prisons. He spent time in high security, all the way down to minimum security camps, over the course of a three decade sentence for distributing cocaine in the 80s.
What he lived through was a n
Sara Parker
Dec 01, 2008 Sara Parker rated it really liked it
An intriguing book about prison, written by an inmate. pretty depressing and startling. It makes you wonder why jails and prisons are called "corrections" facilities, when they do nothing of the sort.
Pete D'angelo
Aug 17, 2012 Pete D'angelo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
interesting look at the US prison system, from an insider's perspective. the author was arrested in his early 20's on a non-violent drug charge, and was sentenced to 45 years in prison, despite having no prior record. over the years, he has served his time in maximum, low and minimum security prisons, obtained a master's degree, and was working toward a doctorate until his progress was stifled by unaccommodating wardens and corrections officers. he has since taken to writing about his experience ...more
Feb 28, 2008 Ian rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-etc
Inside offers a gritty, behind-the-walls look at life in the federal prison system. Santos details how weak prisoners learn to adapt and how strong prisoners exploit others including guards. He covers the gamut: Sex, drugs, gangs, violence.

The book is most successful in its documentary aspects. Though I found Santos' rendering of some of the prison argot a little cheesy, I have no doubt about its general accuracy.

Santos does less of a good job talking about his own experiences and choices insid
Jul 24, 2016 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well and clearly written. Gives a vivid idea of miserable life in penitentiaries. Left me with a lot of questions though. Like how did he avoid the terrible treatment so many people got (assault, rape, etc) if he didn't himself engage in violence, as he says in the book. He both says it's impossible to avoid, and that he avoids it. Hmmm??? Also the way he wrote the other inmates prison language but didn't use it himself just seems.... pretentious somehow? Also he really comes off like a goo ...more
An impressive feat to write this book in longhand and end up with an even semi-readable account. The book isn't quite sure what story it wants to tell: that of the author, that of the craziest folks he met in prison, that of the prison system more broadly. This bit of unfocus detracts some from the experience of reading and enjoying this book. Still, the anecdotes are believable and well-written and the ability of Mr. Santos to survive a long prison sentence with relative sanity and dignity is i ...more
Celina Goodman
Very real and authentic. I like the author's emphasis on education and how our correctional facilities do very little correcting. I learned a lot about the structure of America's prison system but the "shocking" things that happen inside I feel are pretty much known by the public.
Jan 24, 2014 Esra'a rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An informative read to know more about life behind bars from an “inside” perspective. Santo's message is built toward prisoners' rights, yet i could not feel for them in most of his stories. Most of them do not want to elevate their life condition but keep on getting themselves in more trouble. My lack of compassion for them, however, doesn't mean that i agree on the way they are treated. There should always be limits to the power given to any "correctional" system to stop its employees from abu ...more
Nov 01, 2013 Kony rated it liked it
First off: props for the vision and resolve it took to write and publish this book while locked up, especially in the face of institutional hostility. As a feat of courage and grit, it wins my admiration.

As a glimpse into the world behind bars - it's a readable and beneficial account. It confirms and expands the insights into men's facilities I've gleaned as a researcher and volunteer.

As a literary work - it's on the higher-middle end of OK. The reconstructed scenes/dialogues are vivid and inte
Meh. Santos is in the Fed pen for 45 years, and opted to take the road of education and writing inside rather than violence. And then, he writes about all the violence and stuff all around him. The bad stuff is he has a slightly annoying writing style, and part of it is due to his using the prison vernacular/slang constantly. I admit, the stories just wouldn't sound right if he was all, "Pardon me, Crip High, but what the deuce are you doing with my heroin?" but it gets really annoying to read a ...more
Apr 23, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An eye-opening and engaging read on the problems of corrections in America.
Feb 10, 2008 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone thinking about going to jail.
The author of this book is, as of the time of this review, incarcerated, and has been for the last decade, at least. The book is composed episodes from the jail/prison system and Santos' analysis of them. The author is necessarily forgiven for any omissions of what might normally be expected in semi-academic non-fiction--he is after all still in prison. The book offers invaluable insight into inner-city sociology. Also, copious graphic scenes make it very readable.

Mar 23, 2007 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Santos writes about his prison experience (he's serving hard time for drug offenses and is nearing the end of a long sentence) and the many ways in the which the prison system fails its prisoners.

This is a difficult read, partly due to the graphic subject matter (he's no-holds-barred). Santos makes a strong case for the rehabilitation of the system and I found myself outraged at times throughout the book. A very good read.
Shamieka Kiel
May 28, 2014 Shamieka Kiel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book helped open my eyes more to prison culture. The lengths people take to survive and the ways a person can make great opportunities for themselves with little resources; it's amazing. Unfortunately these men have found these feats in prison. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Santos' books and maybe one day sitting in on one of his lectures. He is a true inspiration, not only to inmates but their families.
Feb 21, 2008 E. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm just wrapping up a morbid few weeks of prison books and prison shows. It's pretty fascinating stuff but pretty ugly.

This book was of the most interesting to date but that doesn't really make it good. The author is bright and articulate though and he has been in prison a long time so you do get the sense that it is real. The majority of these books are full of bragging and bs.
May 08, 2013 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I may not be giving this book enough credit because it was read after reading a remarkable book of the same genre (The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison), but I will say it is an interesting read if you are curious about prisoners and what they go through. I will say that I had to fast forward through a few parts when the slang and "realism" was overdone for my taste.
Julie O
Mar 25, 2013 Julie O rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am currently reading the second chapter. As a member of law enforcement I wanted to get a more intimate glimpse of the "other side", I am not too impressed but will continue reading. I feel that the author is bashing law enforcement and putting his personal feeling into this book, which is fine but a turn off for someone who is in the field.
His insight on the things that drive inmates to do what they do is fairly accurate. He paints himself as an observer of the inmate culture and not a participant. His portrayal of the officers is yet again another book that inaccurately depicts officers as the stereotypical bullying corrupt brute.
Jul 18, 2012 Cara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating glimpse into the American prison system. In my opinion, some of the writing was a little too slanted rather than factual but that's not surprising and while noteworthy, it didn't detract from my overall impression of the book (too much, anyway).
Juliana Andrade
I read this book as part of my curriculum for a Criminology course I took in college.

This book opens your eyes to the institutionalized lives of prisoners..

Overall, decent book but not very memorable..
Tom R
May 11, 2009 Tom R rated it liked it
Written by a guy who has been a convict in the federal prison system for over 20 years. I don't know that I learned anything I didn't already know. Interesting read, but certainly not groundbreaking.
Jun 16, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man's experience in prison and going through the criminal justice system. A nonviolent offender getting 20 years for a non violent offense. What a waste of federal penitentiary space.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System
  • Dreams from the Monster Factory: A Tale of Prison, Redemption, and One Woman's Fight to Restore Justice to All
  • Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison
  • A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars
  • The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison
  • Portrait of a Monster: Joran van der Sloot, a Murder in Peru, and the Natalee Holloway Mystery
  • Dancing Under the Red Star: The Extraordinary Story of Margaret Werner, the Only American Woman to Survive Stalin's Gulag
  • Crime And Punishment In American History
  • You Got Nothing Coming: Notes From a Prison Fish
  • Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing
  • Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law
  • Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang
  • The Wizards Of Langley: Inside The Cia's Directorate Of Science And Technology
  • And the Money Kept Rolling In (and Out) Wall Street, the IMF, and the Bankrupting of Argentina
  • Miles Away... Worlds Apart
  • Gypsy Girl
  • Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend
  • In The Minds Of Murderers

Share This Book