From CJR~ Academics studying prison should pay special attention to Glenn's work. The scholarship on prisons has increasingly turned to quantitative, aggregate statistical analysis to understand life behind bars. In doing so, this research has turned a blind eye to the nuances, norms, and subtle texture that characterize so much of prison social organization. Glenn's work, drawing upon his own experience, provides the rich detail of the governance institutions that guide inmates' daily life. Not everything that counts, can be counted, and this book illustrates that fact by providing the nuanced and detailed description that sociologists and criminologists have, for a variety of reasons, stopped providing. Famed sociologist Loïc Wacquant notes that "with social science deserting the scene, one is forced to turn to the writings of journalists and inmates to learn about everyday life in the cells and dungeons of America." In just this way, scholars studying incarceration, norms, and gangs should pay special attention to Underdog. It takes context-dependent, detailed studies to understand how inmate society functions and why it functions that way. This book does just that.
Here's a review from David Bitco Who better to speak to the horrors of a broken prison system than a former inmate? Glenn Langohr's inside view of life behind bars, in some of California's most brutal prison facilities, is an eye opening, day in the life view that no other author could provide. Through his eyes, we see the inner workings of a system that few of us ever see, and all of us dread.
His opening salvo is a hat-tip to my other cause celebre, the mistreatment of our most unfortunate of fur children - shelter animals. He uses this chapter though, as a lead-in to a story of brutal torture, inept administration, racism, deception, derision, divisiveness, prejudice and injustice. In Underdog, Langohr makes the point that the time spent breaking inmates could be much better spent, building - or rebuilding - Human beings.
The book - more a novella, really - takes the reader on a first person account of a prison riot, triggered, both by a power vacuum within the heavily segregated racial schema, and the rampant Heroin use that has become such an integral part of prison life. From there, we're made privy to a lockdown in the hole and the rabid need to classify all inmates as gang members. We're told in exacting detail, the methodology used by gang investigators to determine an individual's status - tattoos, self-identification, and the word of other prisoners. No burden of proof, no advocacy, no defense. You're branded a gang member and thrown into solitary without so much as a how do you do.
n Underdog, we're given first hand views of several California facilities ending with the infamous Pelican Bay, during the height of the hunger strike that made the name of that institution a household word - the Western Attica.
I found Langohr's voice to be open and brutally honest. His prose is neither stilted nor flowery. He writes about his subject in plain English, and peppers his work with the argot of the places that had so much impact on his life. Through Glenn, we learn the meaning of terms like off the shelf and IGI Gooners.
There is a marvelous first person tension to his writing. He's not an academic writing about the prison system for a college text book, he's a former prisoner and activist, writing about it for you and me.
All of Glenn Langohr's books are also available in audio to listen to a free sample first and found here~ http://www.amazon.com/-/e/