Darcia Helle's Reviews > Inside: Life Behind Bars in America

Inside by Michael G. Santos
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's review
Nov 04, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: culture-sociology, nonfiction
I own a copy

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 sentence began. He is now in his mid 40s.

Michael Santos is well-spoken, thoughtful, and intelligent. His story takes us through the prison system, from the supermax where he started to the minimum security prison camp where he is now. He tells us what life in prison is like and he holds nothing back.

We toss these men into a system where they must fight to survive each day. And we call it "corrections". They exist in a prison society that is appalling on so many levels. Then we expect them to emerge from that hell and fit nicely into an entirely different type of society.

As taxpayers, we support this system. Our silence allows the business of prisons (because they are in it for profit) to house men (and women) in a way that ensures their return. We should all know what goes on behind those prison walls that we support. Maybe then we'll be horrified enough to change it.
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Tina I could not agree with you more that as taxpayers we should know what our money is paying for and that by allowing these acts to be continued, either through lack of knowledge or caring, we are wasting our money. Things that go on in prison actually cause more problems in the long term (more that 80% of prisoners get out and come back into society). I live in Minnesota and we have an OK prison system and I personally know some of the directors at a state prison, the one challenge they have to face constantly comes from the public not understanding that the SENTENCE ITSELF is the punishment for breaking the law and that once in prison inmates are still HUMAN and not to be PUNISHED by correctional officers. If we as a public would fight for the funds that are currently being spent on maximum security prisons to be put to better use on skills and reintegration for the inmates then the need for maximum security prisons would be significantly less because inmates are following the signals we are giving them, if they do not know how to "act" when they get there we need to give them the resources to learn how to "act" so they do not end up in maximum which will only deteriorate them as a human being. With that being said I an not naive and I know that there is a need to protect society but we must remember that most prisoners get out and they hold SOCIETY responsible for the acts that have been done to them. WE MUST LEARN TO HAVE EMPATHY TOWARDS OTHERS. I can not wait until the day I graduate I had originally wanted to be a probation officer but I am now seriously looking into our correctional facilities in Minnesota which are trying hard to convince the public of the changes that need to be made (because the public has such a huge say in what is being done, even if they do not realize it)Elected officials will not make changes that seem "soft" because they want to be re-elected, so as a voter I am making sure that my elected officials know where I stand! Hopefully I will be able to be part of a great change for society! Thank you for understanding and voicing your opinion!

Darcia Helle Tina, you are a kindred soul! I love that you're speaking out about this issue. You are so right about elected officals not wanting to risk looking "soft". We desperately need people like you to get involved. I wish you tons of success with your future career.

By the way, if you haven't read Dreams from the Monster Factory: A Tale of Prison, Redemption, and One Woman's Fight to Restore Justice to All by Sunny Schwartz, you might want to check it out. Fascinating book about a woman in California who made huge changes in her prison system.

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