The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons
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An ambitious guide examines the federal prison system.

This book’s subtitle is deadly serious and thoroughly warranted. From the outset, Zoukis (Prison Education Guide, 2016, etc.) mounts a convincing case regarding mass incarceration and the changing demands of prison populations, thereby underscoring the need for this project. The author has been an inmate since 2006 and provides an insider’s view often missing from discussions of the federal prison system. The helpful italicized tips that appear frequently throughout the text are based on considerable experience, observation, and research. But the most sustained first-person account lies in the chapter devoted to the heightened restrictions and indignities of the Special Housing Unit. Zoukis tackles a wide array of challenging issues, such as communicable diseases, mental health, suicide, substance abuse, violence, gangs, and sexual assaults. The densest chapter focuses on the Inmate Discipline Program, examining incidents that occur on the inside. As he does consistently throughout the book, Zoukis breaks down the bureaucracy, explains the processes involved, and offers advice—in this case, how best to represent and defend oneself, whether innocent or guilty of the charges. Beyond the handbook’s obvious appeal to future and current inmates, the author correctly asserts that it is also useful for friends and family, legal professionals, prison staff, and students of the criminal justice system. For example, in addition to a separate chapter on visitation procedures that should greatly benefit loved ones, Zoukis suggests that, in the event of an emergency on the outside, friends and family members should communicate directly with the chaplaincy staff, request a return call from the inmate within 24 hours, and repeat this procedure if necessary. Given that the stated goal of the prison system is rehabilitation, the author presents the advantages and disadvantages of different work assignments as well as the opportunities available for education, entertainment, recreation, religious services, and legal research. Zoukis manages to compile, organize, and annotate an astonishing amount of data in a way that should satisfy all readers. At the end of this impressive manual, he directly addresses new inmates: “As you stand at that prison gate awaiting entry into a culture to which no one wants admission, what choice will you make? Will you choose success or failure?” This comprehensive handbook goes a long way to answering those questions.

An indispensable work that features essential information about federal prisons.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-692-79973-4
Page count: 522pp
Publisher: Middle Street Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2017


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