This book is a picture of prison life from the inside. It illustrates prison life as, at turns, exciting, surprising, distressing and, often, amusing. Each day is different, and anyone who walks through a prison gate had better be alert. It tells of the small human dramas that play out daily among staff, prisoners, and others who enter this gated world. It calls the reader to see that justice begins by seeing each person, staff or prisoner, as an individual with his or her own story. The passion of the author is to portray prison life as continuous with life in broader society. In prisons, we meet the same cast of characters, the same temptations, the same dangers, and the same rewards as on the outside. Rather than regarding prisons as separate worlds, we should regard them as extensions of the society in which we live.
This is important because there is a continuous flow between prisons and the broader society. Those who go to prison usually return to society. Understanding how prisons work will help us as we consider how to reintegrate former prisoners into our society. As the author argues, this is difficult but important work.