Behind Bars: Surviving Prison by Jeffrey Ian Ross and Stephan C. Richards (Alpha, Penguin Group, 2002)
Behind Bars takes readers from the arrest, to jail, to prison, and finally Outside. The chapters are chronological and simple to follow.
The authors’ second chapter should be the most useful as citizens enter to parallel universe of criminal justice: “Four Fatal Mistakes (and how to avoid them).” Oddly, because of heading size and placement, we see 7 mistakes, but they aren’t all mistakes: the right to remain silent might have been titled “When arrested, say nothing!” The second, “Retaining an Attorney,” is also not a mistake. As the authors explain, it is a mistake to pay lawyers in advance—that way the always-running meter might be manageable. “Bail and Bond” likewise are not mistakes, but not understanding their differences can cause problems that are identified. Even “Bail” gets its own heading, despite being a subsection of the heading above. Perhaps you can follow all this; I was frequently lost. “Due Process and Let’s Make a Deal” focuses on the majority of cases that never make trial but are settled somehow, instead. An interesting fact: despite a 1974 federal law requiring that a defendant gets a court hearing within 100 days, that ‘hearing’ might just be a brief appearance before the court—and not a trial at all. Three’s an important warning against snitches and phone calls. Finally, the authors examine your right to plead ‘not guilty’ and its ramifications.
The rest of the book offers simplistic advice about the prison system, food, sex, work and school … I suppose some readers have not picked these things up from TV or friends who have gone Inside. Mostly, though, I found the book too general to be of much use.
With Part 4, the authors combine the joys of re-entry with statistic on re-entry failures and then failures of policy that cause so much of the trouble to begin with. They take a quick swipe at reintegrating back into parenthood, finding employment, etc.
The book concludes with a sad look at possible changes in the criminal justice system, and then a short glossary of prison terms.