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Mr. Smith Goes to Prison

What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America's Prison Crisis

Jeff Smith

St. Martin's Griffin

Mr. Smith Goes to Prison Download image

ISBN10: 1250134471
ISBN13: 9781250134479

Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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In 2009, Smith pleaded guilty to a seemingly minor charge of campaign malfeasance and earned himself a year and one day in Kentucky’s FCI Manchester. Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is the fish-out-of-water story of his time in the big house; of the people he met there and the things he learned: how to escape the attentions of fellow inmate Cornbread and his friends in the Aryan Brotherhood; what constitutes a prison car and who’s allowed to ride in yours; how to bend and break the rules, whether you’re a prisoner or an officer. And throughout his sentence, the young Senator tracked the greatest crime of all: the deliberate waste of untapped human potential.

Smith saw the power of millions of inmates harnessed as a source of renewable energy for America’s prison-industrial complex, a system that aims to build better criminals instead of better citizens. In Mr. Smith Goes to Prison, he traces the cracks in America’s prison walls, exposing the shortcomings of a racially-based cycle of poverty and crime that sets inmates up to fail. Speaking from inside experience, he offers practical solutions to jailbreak the nation from the financially crushing grip of its own prisons and to jumpstart the rehabilitation of the millions living behind bars.


Praise for Mr. Smith Goes to Prison

"Jeff Smith takes us inside the prison experience like never before. You feel like you're inside the walls with him, living the gritty, scary, and tragic reality of prison life."—Touré

"Mr. Smith Goes to Prison joins Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow as essential reading on America's greatest failure: our prison system. I was transfixed by this book: a middle-class white politician goes to prison for some hard time and turns out to be a great writer and a keen observer and interpreter of all he sees. Anyone who wants to work on fixing the prison system ought to start by reading this riveting book."—Howard Dean

"Well-written and insightful, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison asks us to question the way opportunity and punishment are apportioned in our society . . . This book and this story are great platforms to better understand the way our justice system works and what can be done to address its fissures."—Wes Moore, New York Times bestselling author of The Other Wes Moore and The Work

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith is a former Missouri State Senator who represented the city of St. Louis from 2007 until 2009, when he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a previous campaign. Having served a yearlong sentence in Kentucky's FCI Manchester, he is now an assistant professor at the New School's Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Planning. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.

Jeff Smith

Official Links

Jeffrey Smith's faculty profile at The New School