Drawing from their correspondence that endured until shortly before Bundy's death, and striking a seamless balance between her deeply personal perspective and her role as a crime reporter on the hunt for a savage serial killer -- the brilliant and charismatic Bundy, the man she thought she knew -- Rule changed the course of true-crime literature with this unforgettable chronicle.
The United States is supposed to be the land of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but 2.3 million Americans, approximately 1 in every 107 adults, are currently living in a state of captivity. America locks away more of its citizens than any other nation on earth, and the average American, statistically speaking, has a greater chance of losing their freedom than someone living in China, Russia or North Korea. This is an era of mass imprisonment unequaled in modern history.
Between September 2004 and October 2009, Reynolds went undercover as a voluntary detainee in several holding facilities across the United States to debunk myths, challenge stereotypes and get the facts. Is life behind bars a case of fight or fuck as films like The Shawshank Redemption and TV shows like Oz, and Orange Is the New Black make out? Putting himself in harm’s way, just what did Reynolds discover as a Brit behind bars in the USA?
• Chronic overcrowding due to sentencing guidelines (“the three strikes law”) and the draconian “war on drugs”.
• Inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees.
• Prisoners driven mad by the living death of solitary confinement.
• A white bourgeois nightmare of unreformed characters -- gang members, rapists and sex offenders.
• An appalling, but unsurprising, racist, sexist and homophobic inmate subculture.
• Sadistic, indifferent guards who use fear of rape as a tool of control.
• Inmates exploited by public officials for political ends.
• Jails functioning as debtors’ prisons in all but name.
• Nonviolent prisoners with drink, drug and mental health problems warehoused in jail and poorly cared for.
• An $80 billion system on the brink, trapped in a costly, self-defeating, cycle of punishment, rehabilitation and overpopulation. America, the land of the free, has become the home of the jailed.
• Despite the high cost to taxpayers and warped economics - twelve months in a New York City jail costs just as much as four years at an Ivy League university - people do not display the same level of scrutiny and skepticism applied to other government spending programs. The privileged, professional classes don’t care about the scale, brutality and moral scandal of the American system, and the subject is cheap fodder for sadistic jokes about rape.
Without embellishment or recourse to sensationalism, Reynolds reports on the shortcomings of the system, experiencing brutal regimes and lax ones, meeting fresh fish, recidivists and the people who work in the system. Part of the appeal is Reynolds’ attempts to get into jail without actually breaking the Law (not as easy as you would think).
Throughout, Reynolds is a cheerfully neutral observer, giving a first person account of his surroundings and the people that he meets; preparing for the next lock up and wondering if he will get gang raped and/or beaten to a pulp once he gets there. Eye opening, funny and compelling Convict Land is an entertaining and highly unusual piece of investigative non-fiction that reveals what life is really like behind bars in the USA.