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Inside: Life Behind Bars in America
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Inside: Life Behind Bars in America

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  481 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
American jails and prisons confine nearly 13.5 million people each year, and it is estimated that 6 to 7 percent of the U.S. population will be confined in their lifetimes. 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 confi
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2006)
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Darcia Helle
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 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Oct 25, 2008 rated it liked it
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 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
Sara Parker
Dec 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Okay, first off, we have all seen Shawshank Redemption. We don't need this long polemic to educate us that correctional officers and wardens are corrupt scumbags. Yes, we need prison reform but if it was that easy and the complex itself wasn't so profitable, it would be done in a day.

The main reason this book is shit, other than the lame attempts at creative writing, was when Michael met Arnie in chapter 19. Of coarse, "Arnie" (real name: Arnold Bingis) is just a feeble elderly man who just did
Joe Clark
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I would say the book is interesting. The writing leaves a lot to be desired but the characters are fascinating. Santos was still in prison when he wrote this book and he seems to have fictionalized a good deal of it to protect people involved including himself. Nonethess readable and interesting. I abandoned this book when I discovered his autobiographical version "Earning Freedom."
Avrohom Kotler
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Inside personal account of life behind bars (non-violent drug dealer caught during his early 20’s). Some chapters are redundant. But there’s a nice surprise in one of the later chapters that brings the book full circle. Eye opener.
Kevin LaBrie
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly captivating look into the prison system and what goes on.
Gonzaga Escauriaza
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Gonzaga by: Amazon
Interesting and very entertaining.
Very easy to read and enjoyable.
Perhaps it lacks a bit of sentiments from the author during his confinement.
Marshall Cain
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Pete D'angelo
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Grace Tipton
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 01, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Oct 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 17, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Mar 23, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.

Shamieka Kiel
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Julie O
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
May 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
Juliana Ebeling
Jan 07, 2014 rated it liked it
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..
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