I CHOSE PRISON by James V. Bennett


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Mr Bennett was the Director of the U.S. Prison Bureau from 1937 to 1964; 25,000 people in 36 institutions were under his jurisdiction of increasingly liberalized intent. Not only has recidivism been halved during this time, but -- and it will startle the quieter majority -- crimes of violence have not increased as rapidly as property crimes and the homicide rate has been stable. When he first viewed certain institutions in the mid-twenties, he felt ""we were dealing with atrocities"" of which brutality was the ""gut issue."" In time, accelerating in the '60's, he was able to institute reforms from the elmination of the nightstick and Alcatraz to the establishment of prisons without bars and work-release programs. Expectably, Mr. Bennett opposes capital punishment (and there is one heart-stopping and one funny anecdote, re executions); he talks about important people he's known, from prisoners Capone to Mayor Curley to Joe Valachi, to Truman or his closer friend Biddle. The account of the once ""embittering waystations"", hopefully converted into more and more effective centers of rehabilitation is consistently interesting, and informed by concern as well as experience.

Publisher: Knopf