24 September 2013

Book Review: "Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls"

I've just finished reading Peter Grant's latest offering, and will try to communicate my thoughts.

Amazon.com describes it this way:
“Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls” is a first-hand account from a chaplain's perspective of the real word behind the razor wire in America's high-security prisons. It ranges from hideous brutality to mundane boredom and everything in between. In these pages you'll meet everyone from some of the most evil psychopaths in existence, to those whose only crimes were on paper and hurt nobody. They're all dumped into the penitentiary meat-grinder together, with results that are sometimes agonizing, often frustrating, and occasionally very funny.

The author describes himself in his blog as a former military man and a medically retired pastor. His compassion for those inside our penal system is obvious, as is his very common-sense approach to dealing with those sentenced to reside there. He spent years as a Chaplain in the prison system at all levels, and offers some very insightful proposals to improve the current state of our penal system, which demonstrably isn't working.

He tells the stories of a number of inmates, in their own words (carefully avoiding identifying anyone or any place specific), and the level of pain, bitterness, violence, anger and denial may shock you. He describes, in vignette fashion, a typical day in the system. For those who have never been exposed to the post-conviction phase of a criminal's life, it is stark and gripping: uncomfortably, disturbingly stark in some cases.

This book is not a novel, and is most definitely not fiction. It is, rather, an unvarnished look behind the walls of the federal prison system, among others. He also spends time writing of the penal system in the United States: why it is the way it is, how it came to be that way, and how it might be improved.

It may be a disservice to the author to quote him out of context, but consider this snippet from his many ideas on the subject:
I propose that a misdemeanor crime should never be punished by a sentence of incarceration. Some States already do this:  others have prison sentences for more serious misdemeanors. Let's remove this class of criminal from our prisons once and for all. They don't need to be there, and there are plenty of alternative punishments for them. If a crime's serious enough to warrant imprisonment, it's serious enough to be classified as a felony. (That includes imprisoning someone who persistently refuses to comply with the non-custodial sentence imposed for a misdemeanor crimes. We can define such defiance as a felony offense in itself, and for that offense he can and should go to prison. If he won't do it the easy way, he can do it the hard way.)

Please read this book.  Consider his carefully-crafted suggestions on how to improve the entire system. You're free to disagree with him, of course. As he writes, "If you have better ideas, let's hear them."

Like it or not, you won't be able to ignore the too-real description of inmate life, and the consequences thereof.


Stephen said...

I'll read it tonight.

Rev. Paul said...

I'm sure Peter will appreciate that, sir. Thank you.

Sandy said...

Rev. Paul,
Okay, now I'll have to find it and read it because I'm interested in what the author has to say.

DR said...

Rev. Paul, I am going to have to read it. I have really changed my views on our prison system. After my law enforcement classes and deeper involvement with the Libertarian movement.

When you consider we have a relatively small population, but we imprison more people than even Communist China, something is wrong.

Have you seen the movie Felon? It was heavily researched and deals with a lot of the same issues.

Rev. Paul said...

Sandy, I believe it will leave you thinking, and that's a good thing from any book.

DR, I haven't seen Felon. Thanks for the recommendation.

DR said...

I think you will like it. The same director did another movie recently called "Snitch" with the rock that deals with mandatory sentences. I think "Felon" was the better of the two, but they both make good points.

Felon: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1117385/

Snitch: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0882977/?ref_=nm_knf_t2