The Australian Book of True Crime: Crimes that Shocked Australia

Allen & Unwin
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Twenty-one of Australia's most startling real-life crimes, from the late 1800s to the present day are collected here in one gripping volume. Using exhaustive research, court records, police statements and original interviews, Larry Writer offers fascinating new insights into the lives of some of Australia's most notorious villains and their victims.
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About the author

Larry Writer is the author of The Australian Book of True Crime and The Australian Book of Heroism, the Ned Kelly Award-winning Razor, Bumper: The Life and Legend of Frank 'Bumper' Farrell, Pleasure and Pain, and Never Before, Never Again. He is a former editor, senior journalist and London bureau chief with Australian Consolidated Press and Time Inc. Magazines. Larry lives in Sydney with his family.
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21 total

Additional Information

Allen & Unwin
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Published on
Jul 1, 2008
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True Crime / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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What is it like to go to jail in the 21st Century? Convict Land: Undercover in America’s Jails is an Orwellian tour of the world’s most celebrated and controversial system by English journalist Alexander Reynolds.

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.

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