The authors aren't hopeful of change in the present prison system (British, though the same applies in America) but, by temporarily waiving the issue of reform, they've set the problem in an unprejudiced context that ought to benefit the cause. Ironically, they were invited to Durham Prison by the Home Office to give a weekly social science class to the glamorous convicts of E-Wing -- an infamous maximum-security lock-up built in 1963, in the hysteria following a rash of escapes, including the likes of the Great Train Robbers. As an elite of sorts, pupils and teachers developed a rapport and drifted gradually into an exploration of their common ground -- an interest in the existential psychology of stress and deviance. Together, relying on scholarly sources, literary accounts and, most effectively, the prisoners' own writings (both groups rejected tests and questionnaires, and other standard methods as impracticable) they've produced a fine phenomenological study of life in the long-term wards. The experience is in a class with the extreme deprivation and emotional strain encountered by disaster victims, migrants, explorers, etc., which command our willing sympathy and respect. The long-term prisoner, however, foresees no end to the total, unremitting assault on his self-hood. He is deliberately denied the resources for psychic survival (that is the hidden essence of the punishment); and should he succeed all the same, there is no recognition. The authors, needless to say, are sympathetic, within just limits which the prisoners themselves endorse. It's difficult not to be, especially in light of their compelling presence and eloquence.