Mr. Smith Goes to Prison What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America's Prison Crisis

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 9/1/2015
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press

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The fall from politico to prisoner isn't necessarily long, but the landing, as Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith learned, is a hard one.

In 2009, Smith lied to the Feds about seemingly minor campaign malfeasance and earned himself a year and a day in Kentucky's FCI Manchester. Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is the fish-out-of-water story of his time in the big house; of the people he met there and the things he learned: how to escape the attentions of fellow inmates, like a tattooed Klansman and his friends in the Aryan Brotherhood; what constitutes a prison car and who's allowed to ride in yours; how to bend and break the rules, whether you're a prisoner or an officer. And throughout his sentence, the senator tracked the greatest crime of all: the deliberate waste of untapped human potential.

Smith saw the power of millions of inmates harnessed as a source of renewable energy for America's prison-industrial complex, a system that aims to build better criminals instead of better citizens. In Mr. Smith Goes to Prison, he traces the cracks in America's prison walls, exposing the shortcomings of a racially based cycle of poverty and crime. Smith blends a wry sense of humor with academic training, political acumen, and insights from his year on the inside. He offers practical solutions to jailbreak the nation from the financially crushing grip of its own prisons and to jump-start the rehabilitation of the millions living behind bars.

Author Biography

Jeff Smith is a former Missouri State Senator who represented the city of St. Louis from 2007 until 2009, when he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a previous campaign. Having served a yearlong sentence in Kentucky's FCI Manchester, he is now an assistant professor at the New School's Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Planning. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two young children. Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is his first book.

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