Archives For Prisons


Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)

See a book here that you’d like to review for us?
Contact us, and we’ll talk about the possibility of a review.

[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”0374120706″ locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”” width=”333″ alt=”New Book Releases” ] > > > >
Next Book

[easyazon-link asin=”0374120706″ locale=”us”]Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison[/easyazon-link]
By Joshua Dubler

Read the Kirkus Review


016640: Ministry with Prisoners and Families: The Way Forward

A Brief Review of

Ministry with Prisoners and Families:
The Way Forward

Edited by W.W. Goode, Sr., C.E. Lewis, Jr. & H.D. Trulear
Paperback: Judson Pres, 2011.

Buy now: [ ]
Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.

The statistics are incredibly disturbing.  “The United States incarcerates its citizens at the highest rate of any nation.  The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that at midyear 2008 more than 2.3 million people were being held in federal or state prisons or in local jails.  From 2000 to 2007, the overall prison population grew annually by an average of 2.4 percent.  An additional 7 million persons are under the supervision of probation or parole…Data from the Pew Center confirm that the situation is especially daunting among African American males. Currently 1 in 15 African American males over age eighteen is behind bars, as opposed to 1 of every 36 Latinos and 1 of 106 white males.  In addition, the Center reports that one of every nine African American males between the ages of 25 and 34 is behind bars.” (3) Ministry to Prisoners and Families is a response to those frightening statistics – a response of hope and courage and real answers.  It is a powerful reminder of our calling and our responsibility as God’s people in this broken world, a world full of broken lives, families and communities.     Even though it is directed specifically toward the African-American community (written out of deep concern over the high incarceration rate among African-Americans), the wisdom, discernment and vision found on its pages are true and relevant for all God’s people in every community.

Continue Reading…


The NY Review of Books Reviews
Three Recent Books on Prisons


With approximately 2.3 million people in prison or jail, the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world—by far. Our per capita rate is six times greater than Canada’s, eight times greater than France’s, and twelve times greater than Japan’s. Here, at least, we are an undisputed world leader; we have a 40 percent lead on our closest competitors—Russia and Belarus.

Even so, the imprisoned make up only two thirds of one percent of the nation’s general population. And most of those imprisoned are poor and uneducated, disproportionately drawn from the margins of society. For the vast majority of us, in other words, the idea that we might find ourselves in jail or prison is simply not a genuine concern.

For one group in particular, however, these figures have concrete and deep-rooted implications—African-Americans, especially young black men, and especially poor young black men. African-Americans are 13 percent of the general population, but over 50 percent of the prison population. Blacks are incarcerated at a rate eight times higher than that of whites—a disparity that dwarfs other racial disparities. (Black–white disparities in unemployment, for example, are 2–1; in nonmarital childbirth, 3–1; in infant mortality, 2–1; and in net worth, 1–5[1]).

In the 1950s, when segregation was still legal, African-Americans comprised 30 percent of the prison population. Sixty years later, African-Americans and Latinos make up 70 percent of the incarcerated population, and that population has skyrocketed. The disparities are greatest where race and class intersect—nearly 60 percent of all young black men born between 1965 and 1969 who dropped out of high school went to prison at least once on a felony conviction before they turned thirty-five. And the incarceration rate for this group—black male high school dropouts—is nearly fifty times the national average.[2]

Read the full review:

Race, Incarceration, and American Values.
Glenn C. Loury, with Pamela S. Karlan,
Tommie Shelby, and Loïc Wacquant

Hardback: Boston Review/MIT Press, 2008.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.
Paul Butler

Hardback: New Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Releasing Prisoners, Redeeming Communities:
Reentry, Race, and Politics
Anthony C. Thompson

Paperback: New York University Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Dave Eggers Reviews
a new collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s
Unpublished Short Fiction
For the NY Times

It’s been two years since Kurt Vonnegut departed this world, and it’s hard not to feel a bit rudderless without him. Late in his life, Vonnegut issued a series of wonderfully exasperated columns for the magazine In These Times. During the darkest years of the Bush administration, these essays, later collected in “A Man Without a Country,” were guide and serum to anyone with a feeling that pretty much everyone had lost their minds. In a 2003 interview, when asked the softball question “How are you?” he answered: “I’m mad about being old, and I’m mad about being American. Apart from that, O.K.”

Vonnegut left the planet just about the time we, as a nation, were crawling toward the light again, so it’s tempting to wonder what he would have made of where we are now. Would he have been pleased by the election of Barack Obama? Most likely he’d have been momentarily heartened, then exasperated once again witnessing the lunatic-­strewn town halls, the Afghanistan quagmire, the triumph of volume over reason, of machinery over humanity.

For the last many decades of his life, Vonnegut was our sage and chain-­smoking truth-teller, but before that, before his trademark black humor and the cosmic scope of “Cat’s Cradle” and “Slaughterhouse-­Five,” he was a journeyman writer of tidy short fictions.

Read the full review:

Unpublished Short Fiction
Kurt Vonnegut.

Hardback: Delacorte Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Powells’ Books Reviews
THE COLLECTOR by Jack Nisbet

The man who gave his name to the magnificent Douglas fir was in the second wave of white adventurers in the great Pacific Northwest, and you get the feeling, reading Jack Nisbet’s fascinating new biography, The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest, that he regretted his tardiness. Oh, to be first and most!

Born the son of a stonemason in 1799 in the village of Old Scone, Scotland, Douglas seemed a true child of the century that was about to disappear. Enlightened, ambitious, opportunistic, with a restless spirit and a scientific mind, he might have been a character from a Henry Fielding novel — a little headstrong, even obstinate, yet amiable and determined to make his way in the world.

By the time Douglas reached the mouth of the Columbia River on April 15, 1825, after an ocean voyage of eight months and 14 days, seafarers such as James Cook, Robert Gray and George Vancouver had long beat him to the Northwest punch. So had the French Canadian trappers and voyageurs. So had another Scotsman, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and the Americans Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who had made their arduous cross-country treks to the Pacific before Douglas was born or when he was in knee pants.

Read the full review:

The Collector:
David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest
Jack Nisbet.

Hardback: Sasquatch Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


In our continuing effort to fund the publication and free distribution of The Englewood Review, we are going to be collaborating more intentionally with Christian Book Distributors.  Primarily, we will be offering you the opportunity to buy bargain books from CBD that we think of are interest.  Buying books this way is a win / win / win proposition.  You get great books for a great price,  CBD gets the sale and we get an excellent referral fee from CBD.  These books make great gifts!


This week’s bargain books (Click to learn more/purchase):

  • Science and Wisdom  Jurgen Moltmann.
    (Paperback) $3.99 – Save 83%!!!
  • The Executed God: Way of the Cross in Lockdown America.
    by Mark Lewis Taylor
    (Paperback)   $1.99 – Save 89%!!!
  •  Anxious About Empire: Theological Essays on the New Global Realities.
    Wes Avram, editor (Paperback)   $3.99 – Save 79%!!!

    The Beautiful Creatures:
    Trees in the Biblical Story
    by Sylvia C. Keesmaat

    In the beginning, there were no trees. There were no trees, for there was no rain to nourish them and no creature to tend them. In the beginning, there was the Voice. The Voice called the earth to birth the trees. As the Voice called and beckoned, the earth brought forth and the growth began: sap rushed up, limbs stretched, breaking the moist soil, reaching for the warmth of the sun. Roots groped, stretched, moved through the crumbly earth, embraced and cleft rocks, drew nourishment. Buds formed and leaves unfurled, fluffy and small, growing as the sun dried and warmed them and as sap filled them.

    The Voice said, “Be trees full of life, be strong. Grow fruit for the birds and the animals, and branches for their homes. Be pleasing to look at, shout forth the grandeur of the Word. Dig your roots deep; draw nourishment from the earth.”

    And the trees became living beings.

    Read the full piece:

    THE NATION’s Review of
    Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America
    by Anne-Marie Cusac

    In his inaugural address, Barack Obama pledged to renew the nation’s founding creed, to carry forward “that precious gift, that noble idea…that all are equal, all are free.” Some 1.8 million people gathered on the National Mall to hear the new president on that icy January morning. Yet a considerably larger mass — equivalent to adding the population of Boston to the celebration — spent the same day behind bars. For America is not only the land of the free, as the Navy chorus chanted from the presidential dais. It is also, to an extraordinary extent, the land of the unfree, the most incarcerated society on earth.

    The United States was not always so locked down. For most of the twentieth century its incarceration rate hovered near one-tenth of one percent, roughly the same as in other industrial free societies. Then, from the early 1970s forward, the federal and state governments began extending sentences, curtailing judicial discretion and restricting early releases. The prison population soared. By the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, approximately one out of every 100 adults was in jail or prison, a proportion unmatched in the history of democracy.

    Read the full review:

    Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America.
    Anne-Marie Cusac.

    Hardback: Yale UP, 2009.
    Buy now: [ Amazon ]

    BookForum Reviews
    Coal Mountain Elementary by Mark Nowak

    To call Mark Nowak’s haunting new book a collection of poetry would be a bit of a misnomer. It would also be misleading to say Nowak is its author. The poems in Coal Mountain Elementary comprise three strands of found text; Nowak has selected and braided them, achieving an arresting effect. This is a book that exposes the darkest reaches of the global coal industry by using the industry’s own means—politely referred to as “extraction”—to lay bare the official language used to obfuscate mining’s human and environmental impact and to recover the far truer language of miners themselves.

    Nowak’s first strand consists of verbatim extracts from thousands of pages of testimony given by family members, safety officials, and survivors of the Sago Mine explosion, which occurred January 2, 2006, in Sago, West Virginia. The explosion left twelve miners dead and became, for a couple days, a story of national heartbreak. The operation to rescue thirteen trapped miners was famously muddled, and incorrect information was released to the press, leading family members to cheers of deliverance, only for them to learn after hours of celebration that, in fact, only one miner had survived. Attempts to conduct a meaningful investigation into the disaster and botched rescue effort were thwarted by the mine’s corporate owner, International Coal Group, West Virginia mining officials, the United States Department of Labor, and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, groups that opposed making public the very testimony Nowak has so carefully selected.

    Read the full review:

    Coal Mountain Elementary.
    Mark Nowak.

    With photographs by Ian Teh and Mark Nowak.
    Paperback: Coffeehouse Press, 2009.
    Buy now: [ Amazon ]

    The High Line and Urban Development.
    From The New York Review of Books

    The form a city assumes as it evolves over time owes more to large-scale works of civil engineering—what we now call infrastructure—than almost any other factor save topography. The collective imagination fixes on the most conspicuous symbols of urban identity: the grand architectural set pieces of political and religious authority that predominated until the last century, when spectacular high-rise monuments to financial might reshaped skylines around the world. But without the development of complex and often ingenious systems for providing increasing numbers of city dwellers with water, sanitation, transportation, energy, and communications, our unprecedented modern megalopolises could never have emerged.

    With alarming frequency lately we have witnessed a series of American infrastructural disasters, including the collapse of a highway bridge linking Minneapolis and St. Paul; the explosion of underground steam ducts in midtown Manhattan; and inundations caused by failures of antiquated water mains, weakened dams, and inadequate levees, most catastrophically in New Orleans. Advocates of a comprehensive national initiative to repair or replace aging public works have stressed how such an undertaking would spur economic recovery. But whether it does so or not, the inescapable crisis of our crumbling infrastructure must be confronted, and sooner rather than later.

    Another question that arises as cities mature is what to do with outmoded infrastructure. Many architectural preservationists were slow to concede the historical merit of utilitarian landmarks until the 1960s and 1970s. An unusual reclamation project from that period looms larger in hindsight: the land-scape architect Richard Haag’s Gas Works Park of 1970–1975 in Seattle, which recycled a defunct gasification plant into a new kind of public recreation space. Haag perceived the raw beauty of the lakeside site’s abandoned mechanical components—monolithic tanks, totemic gauges, Mondrianesque pipelines—and incorporated them into his scheme as found objects. Haag’s novel idea outraged traditionalists (not least the park’s principal benefactors, who refused to have it named after them), but to others the concept seemed reasonable at a time when artists like Mark di Suvero and Alexander Liberman were appropriating I-beams and drainage culverts for their monumental outdoor sculptures.


    Read the full review:

    Designing the High Line: Gansevoort Street to 30th Street
    Edited by Friends of the High Line,
    with forewords by James Corner and Ricardo Scofidio

    Paperback: Friends of the High Line, 2008.
    Buy now: [ Amazon ]


    Tobias Winright Reviews
    Two Recent Books on Criminal Justice

    As an undergraduate student 25 years ago, I found myself behind bars—not as an inmate but as a correctional officer. One of the youngest members of a large metropolitan sheriff’s department on the west coast of Florida, I worked full-time at the maximum-security jail in order to pay for college. Those four years working in the slammer schooled me, and they raised a number of questions for me as a Christian, especially about the death penalty and the use of force. I am continuing to unlearn certain attitudes and assumptions I held then, including some about punishment itself.

    By vividly putting into words much of what I have personally pondered about prisons and punishment, these two books should help American readers—Christian or not, possessing firsthand experience with incarceration or not—to step back and take an honest look at what is happening in our current practice of large-scale imprisonment. Each book also asks why we insist on continuing down this punitive path.

    Read the full review:

    Good Punishment?
    Christian Moral Practice and U.S. Imprisonment

    James Samuel Logan

    Paperback: Eerdmans, 2008.
    Buy now: [ CBD ]

    Changing Paradigms:
    Punishment and Restorative Discipline

    Paul Redekop

    Paperback: Herald Press, 2007.
    Buy now: [ CBD ]

    BookForum Reviews

    Millions heard the sound of freedom in the Beatles’ music. Elijah Wald hears a death knell. In the songs of the Fab Four, he argues, pop music completed its decades-long transformation from a kingdom of democratic dance and authorless song to a lonesome land of private pleasures and isolated audiences. The result was segregation along lines of race as well as taste: In the late ’60s, as white rock sought introspection in albums and black pop chased good times on singles, an “increasing divide between rock and soul, listening music and dance music,” developed. Wald writes that the Beatles destroyed rock ’n’ roll by leading “their audience off the dance floor, separating rock from its rhythmic and cultural roots,” and “point[ing] the way toward a future in which there need be no unifying styles.”

    Read the full review:

    How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll:
    An Alternative History of American Popular Music

    by Elijah Wald

    Hardback: Oxford UP, 2009.
    Buy now: [ Amazon ]

    Julie Clawson Reviews Will Samson’s ENOUGH
    For Next-Wave Magazine.

    I recently read Will Samson’s latest book Enough: Contentment in an Age of Excess. When I first started the book, I half-expected it to be a diatribe against modern culture, focusing on the sins of our excess. While the book does mention those excesses, what I found instead was a call to live into true church community. Will encourages us to say “enough” to the consumeristic tendencies that have overtaken our personal lives, our churches, or friendships, and our theology and return to a Christ-centered practice instead.

    Read the full review:

    Enough: Contentment in An Age of Excess.
    Will Samson.

    Paperback: David C. Cook, 2009.
    Buy now: [ CBD ]


    The Wall Street Journal Reviews
    By Winifred Gallagher

    With so many things now demanding our attention — emails, Web sites, BlackBerry alerts, incoming text messages, Twitter tweets, Facebook updates, blogs, stock updates, and old- fashioned meetings and phone calls — many of us . . .

    Some people, she explains, are badly prone to distraction and need to be treated for attention deficit disorder. Others, like increasing numbers of us multitaskers, are merely plagued by bad habits and technology overload, darting from one mental activity to the next. So what can we do to recover the sustained focus that fosters creativity and quality?

    Read the full review:

    Winifred Gallagher.

    Hardcover: The Penguin Press, 2009.
    Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $22 ] [ Amazon ]

    The Orion Magazine Review of
    Nature’s Beloved Son:
    Rediscovering John Muir’s Botanical Legacy

    THE HABIT OF pressing plants began early for John Muir. He collected them for pleasure; he collected them to add to his store of knowledge. Muir’s plant press was a close companion on all his travels—his drawings show him sleeping with the press nearby, or swimming rivers holding it above his head.

    A beautifully produced book, Nature’s Beloved Son is a treat both for Muir-lovers and plant people. Through stunning digital photographs of the botanical specimens collected by Muir during a lifetime of wandering, the authors tell the tale of Muir’s travels in Wisconsin, Canada, Indiana, Florida, Cuba, and elsewhere, ending with major chapters on California and Alaska. The text, by naturalist Bonnie Gisel, clearly the result of massive research, hits the highlights of Muir’s life

    Read the full review:

    Nature’s Beloved Son:
    Rediscovering John Muir’s Botanical Legacy
    Bonnie Gisel.

    Hardcover: Heyday Books, 2008.
    Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

    A new book on prisons
    Reviewed in the NY Review of Books

    Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is currently sponsoring a bill that would create a commission to review America’s entire criminal justice system and make recommendations for reform. If the bill passes, its commissioners should bear in mind a small experiment that took place in the San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno, California, some years ago. This project, the subject of Sunny Schwartz’s brief, absorbing memoir Dreams from the Monster Factory, is important not just because it dramatically reduced recidivism, but also because it could help break the tired stalemate between liberals and conservatives over punishment versus rehabilitation. In addition, Schwartz’s book is revealing about the criminal mind and its thought processes, and thus contains valuable lessons for those at risk of incarceration, and for those close to them.

    Dreams from the Monster Factory:
    A Tale of Prison, Redemption and
    One Woman’s Fight to Restore Justice to All
    Sunny Schwartz  (with David Boodell)

    Hardcover: Scribner, 2009.
    Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]