A young serviceman volunteers to work undercover to investigate California state prisons in McCarty’s first novel.
Why would anyone volunteer to work undercover in overcrowded and miserable living conditions inhabited by an assortment of misfits and miscreants? Perhaps they flunked out of Navy SEAL school. That’s how Joseph McCarty ends up enrolled in the military’s Research and Investigation of California’s Administration of Prisons program. He is so disgusted by his failure with the SEALs that he jumps at the chance to do something “exciting and useful for [his] country.” Seph, as he is dubbed by fellow inmates, plunges into the prison’s general population. There, he documents what many already know about life behind bars: self-imposed segregation, violence, lousy food, tension, anger, psychopathy and poor administration—basically, a system completely out of control. He also covers less familiar topics such as lingo, inmate ploys and institutional psychologies and pathologies. Seph could be a character right out of psychologist Philip Zimbardo’s classic Stanford prison experiment, internalizing the traits of the population he is monitoring. Soon enough, he ends up beating one inmate and stabbing another in two premeditated incidents, which he unapologetically describes as justifiable self-defense. The book, while fictional, is an authentic account of life behind bars gleaned from McCarty’s own decade-long incarceration. Ultimately, Seph’s submits an unorthodox set of findings in an informally written diatribe about what needs to be fixed in prison systems. The final chapter posits a twist ending that will appeal to skeptical observers of politics and society.
Documentary-type findings with a sharp literary twist.