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Posted on Feb 17, 2005 in Books and Movies

Notorious Prisons – Book Review

By Mark Christian

Notorious Prisons: An Inside Look at the World’s Most Feared Institutions
Scott Christianson
The Lyons Press, 2004

After working in the Corrections profession for eight years, I have to ask, "Where was this book when I was studying Corrections?"

The book follows a timeline from the earliest days of Egypt, up to and including the recent alleged charges at Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq (2345 BC to present). From the tale of the Hebrew slave Joseph, to Socrates and medieval prisons. From the ‘Man In The Iron Mask’, to Sing-Sing. Devil’s Island, to Abu Ghraib.

This book takes one of the most interesting and informative avenues I have seen for a look inside the penal system throughout recorded history. I have read several books on prisons and the correctional systems set up throughout the world, but this is the first that covers such a broad range of these systems. Not only does it cover the prisons themselves, but also includes some of the more infamous prison riots in modern history.


Several chapters have a glossary at the end of them to help individuals understand some of the meanings of the words we dont hear everyday. From the moment an individual enters a prison, to the moment of their release, death or escape is recorded in this easy-to-read book.

The pages are double columned, therefore it is much easier to read than some books. Photos and drawings are included on nearly every page. The book has an extensive bibliography and several references to websites that one can access. I would have to say that this is one of the most interesting and easy-to-read books that I have enjoyed in some time.

In my honest opinion, not one person who goes out and purchases this book will be disappointed. It is well worth the money.