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THE SLAMMER: A Critique of Prison Overpopulation, a menacing flaw in American culture

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A critical exposition of America's decaying prison system and a wake-up call for urgent reform.

The Slammer by Robert Goldman is a long and serious book that focuses on the grievous state of the prison system in the USA, which has long been due for reform. Although it’s mostly comprised of commentary/critiques, I loved it because I found the author has set his sights on the noble cause of overhauling America’s “sick” prison system and also because it represents his serious diligence, patient hard work, and devotedness to the goal of reform.


The book begins by tracing the origins of the over-200 year old American prison system and the purpose for which prisons exist viz; serving as correctional institutions that transform prisoners into obedient citizens, thus paving the way for their return/reintegration with society. According to the author, blighted by some nettlesome flaws that have grown over the years, America’s prison system, sadly, doesn’t serve that purpose any longer! While appearing healthy outwardly, it’s rotting inside. What’s crying out for attention today is overcrowding in prisons and the issues that accompany mass incarceration.


The author’s maturity and knowledge of the USA’s Carceral State become clear when you read this book. I found it so finely analyzed and critiqued that there remained no doubt to me how knowledgeable and thorough he is about the subject. And little wonder, once you browse the book’s vast and impressive “Endnotes” and “Bibliography” chapters (that take up around 75 pages, or roughly 15% of this long book) that are testimony to the painstaking study/research done. Add to this the fact that he served in some “maximum-security” prisons as a dentist and he draws from his personal observations/experiences of prison life, and you cannot but concede that this book is not merely theoretical but a painfully real eye-opener. Then, his commitment to prison reform is underscored by the fact that he purposely worked in dangerous prisons, risking his own life, to gain real-life experiences and insights into knotty areas. These, taken together, attest to the book’s authority and the author’s commitment to prison reform.


On account of the foregoing, his brave stand, and particularly his dedication to a noble cause, I admire the author and regard him as a hero. I hope he’s successful in his endeavors.


The right audience for this book is anyone with an interest in the USA’s prison system i.e., the incarcerated, the victims and their families, and the collaborative workforce involved in running the prison system—prison staff and administration, psychologists, psychiatrists, and healthcare staff, Federal, State and Local Govs involved in prison policy-making/management, etc. (to mention only the most important few). It’s also recommended to all that are caring. Finally, it isn’t recommended for casual reading as it's long and serious.

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An engineer and part-time IT Consultant based in Bangalore, India. Part-time copy editor/reviewer. An IEEE Senior Member. Deep thinker and innovator. Highly analytical, clear, accurate, and thorough. Over 65 book reviews published to date-45 on Reedsy and 21 on Online BookClub.

About the author

I grew up in New England, USA, outside Boston, Massachusetts. I have been educated all over the USA and Europe. I am into all aspects of different cultures. I guess that is why my favorite reading is National Geographic and National Geographic History. My book is a reflection: such a wide panorama. view profile

Published on November 25, 2020

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150000 words

Genre: Humanities & Social Sciences

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