Best Books About Prison 2019

Prison literature is wide and varied. It can also range from bittersweet, poignant to downright disturbing. Stories about bravery, resilience, and redemption introduce us to what life in prison is really like.

Here are some of the best books about prison for 2019:


by: Albert Woodfox
Front cover of book entitled "Solitary" by Albert Woodfox

This autobiography of Albert Woodfox (one of Angola 3) tells a story of extraordinary fortitude in the face of violence and injustice. Woodfox was serving a 50-year sentence in Angola prison when he joined the Black Panther Party in his early twenties. When a white guard was killed in 1972, the warden put Woodfox and a fellow Black Panther member in solitary confinement. That no concrete evidence was presented against them did not deter the warden. Their subsequent trial was nothing but a sham and it would take decades before they are to attain true justice.

His memoir is a devastating and insightful look at a justice system where skin color dictates your innocence. Truly an eye-opener for today’s generation.

Life and Death in Rikers Island

by: Homer Venters
Front cover of book entitled Life and Death in Rikers Island by Homer Venters

Venter was the former chief medical officer for New York City’s Jails. In this book, he exposes the health risks inmates face behind bars. From general negligence in health care to sexual abuse and brutality, these health hazards seem to go on and on. What’s worse is, doctors and nurses are often coerced into complicity or silence. Featuring real inmate experiences, this book’s reveals harrowing facts and compelling data about the sorry state of medical affairs in US prisons.

Jailbirds: Lessons from a Women’s Prison

by: Mim Skinner
Front cover of book entitled Jailbirds by Mim Skinner

The things we know about women’s prison is often gathered from how it is portrayed in TV and movies. Most of them, unfortunately, are figments of some people’s imagination. To set the record straight, a UK women’s prison teacher and community worker details what life is really like for women inmates. If you’re looking for a light-hearted yet heartbreaking take on prison life, this book is for you.

I Will Never See The World Again

by: Ahmet Altan
Front cover of a book entitled I Will Never See The World Again by Ahmet Altan

Ahmet Altan was an award-winning writer before he himself would suffer the same fate as one of his novel’s main characters. Considered as one of today’s most important Turkish writers, he was sentenced to life in 2018 by the Turkish state. A victim of Erdogan’s oppressive regime, Altan was kept in solitary confinement in a 4-meter long cell.

This memoir, written from inside his prison cell, is a bittersweet account of the hope and realizations of someone whose life and dreams are crushed by other’s greed.

The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela

by: Nelson Mandela
Front cover of a book entitled The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is one of the most inspiring figures in the 20th century. After being incarcerated for almost 30 years, he would go on to become the first black president of South Africa. His policy of breaking apart institutionalized racism and promoting racial reconciliation earned him the title “Father of the Nation”.

These collection of letters (most of which were unpublished) written from inside his prison cell lets us take a closer look at the man beyond his political persona.

About Judy Ponio

Judy Ponio has written plenty of articles about prison in the United States and how it affects the prisoners and their families. She continues to write in the hopes of bettering the lives of inmates all over the country.

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