A finely crafted, thoughtful look at the modern-day morass of America’s prison system.

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CONFESSIONS OF A SIN EATER

PRACTICING THERAPY IN HELL ON EARTH

McClintock and Soutter’s novel follows John Greaney, a psychotherapist working in Pennsylvania’s violent prison system.

After losing his job at a state mental hospital that was burned down by one of his patients, Greaney finds work in Pennsylvania’s rough and tough prison system. Mostly he’s at a maximum-security prison, though he also does a stint at a medium-security prison and visits others. The book starts with a bang—an ex-con confronts Greaney at a bar—and the action continues almost nonstop as he works with and fends off a variety of intimidating, crazy criminals ranging from murderers, rapists, and pedophiles to one or two inmates wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. Character studies here delve into the diversity of personalities—from the practically benign to the pathologically monstrous—and paint a bleakly dismal portrait of prison and its denizens as well as the difficult positions for prison psychotherapists. Often hated, gamed, or attacked by prisoners, they garner little sympathy from the guards who are supposed to protect them but who look upon them as naïve bleeding hearts. A proponent of blunt honesty and tough love, Greaney succeeds in counseling some prisoners but concludes that his job is futile. The work is making him as mad as his clients. He begins drinking heavily, gaining weight, and having violent fantasies; eventually, he seeks professional help. This gritty account of the cruel realities of modern American prison life is notable for its insightful character sketches and its detailed descriptions of prisons’ physical and emotional brutality, not to mention the blundering bureaucracy and the American public’s heedlessness. Sharply focused and tightly written, the book makes for a riveting read, though the authors can’t seem to decide whether prisons and prisoners can be reformed or are beyond redemption. Perhaps the conclusion is that American crime and punishment may be one more problem with no solution. But the novel presents a forceful case that America’s prison system is making the most incarcerated population on Earth worse rather than better, endangering not only prisoners, but those who work with them, not to mention the public at large.

A finely crafted, thoughtful look at the modern-day morass of America’s prison system.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500934132

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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The author brings the case for judicial redress before the court of public opinion.

LICENSED TO LIE

EXPOSING CORRUPTION IN THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

A former Justice Department lawyer, who now devotes her private practice to federal appeals, dissects some of the most politically contentious prosecutions of the last 15 years.

Powell assembles a stunning argument for the old adage, “nothing succeeds like failure,” as she traces the careers of a group of prosecutors who were part of the Enron Task Force. The Supreme Court overturned their most dramatic court victories, and some were even accused of systematic prosecutorial misconduct. Yet former task force members such as Kathryn Ruemmler, Matthew Friedrich and Andrew Weissman continued to climb upward through the ranks and currently hold high positions in the Justice Department, FBI and even the White House. Powell took up the appeal of a Merrill Lynch employee who was convicted in one of the subsidiary Enron cases, fighting for six years to clear his name. The pattern of abuse she found was repeated in other cases brought by the task force. Prosecutors of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen pieced together parts of different statutes to concoct a crime and eliminated criminal intent from the jury instructions, which required the Supreme Court to reverse the Andersen conviction 9-0; the company was forcibly closed with the loss of 85,000 jobs. In the corruption trial of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, a key witness was intimidated into presenting false testimony, and as in the Merrill Lynch case, the prosecutors concealed exculpatory evidence from the defense, a violation of due process under the Supreme court’s 1963 Brady v. Maryland decision. Stevens’ conviction, which led to a narrow loss in his 2008 re-election campaign and impacted the majority makeup of the Senate, seems to have been the straw that broke the camel's back; the presiding judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate abuses. Confronted with the need to clean house as he came into office, writes Powell, Attorney General Eric Holder has yet to take action.

The author brings the case for judicial redress before the court of public opinion.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61254-149-5

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Brown Books

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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