War Stories: An Oral History of Life Behind Bars
Here is Gregory, who spent two years in solitary confinement before he was convicted of any crime; here is Ethiop, who was imprisoned for homicide despite the absence of a murder weapon, a motive, or witnesses to his alleged crime; and here is Mazar, a convicted murderer, who writes poetry, speaks three languages fluently, and has a genius I.Q. Their "War Stories," along with the stories of 13 other students in a Western Civilization class, are chronicled here by the teacher who earned their respect and trust while tracing the paths that brought them together behind the walls of a maximum security prison.
Americans are vitally concerned about crime. Politicians call for tougher sentences and larger prisons as the headlines decry the sad state of America's inner cities. Yet, amid this din of strident voices, we seldom hear the testimony of those who can speak most authoritatively about the roots of crime and the efficacy of the criminal justice system. We seldom hear from the convicts and inmates themselves. In this poignant and provocative narrative, a history teacher introduces us to fifteen men in a maximum security prison. The stories told by these prisoners confound the easy categories we employ to judge guilt and innocence: some of the men arouse our indignation, while others compel us to question the workings of the criminal justice system. Some point to the ignorance and prejudice that often lie behind the desire to lock 'em up and throw away the key. Throughout, readers will be confronted with facts from the lives of men who are--sometimes simultaneously--perpetrators and victims of the criminal culture we deplore.