Walls & Bars
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Prisons & Prison Life in the "Land of the Free"
by Eugene V. Debs
Introduction by David Dellinger
Deb's only full-length book (first published in 1927) is a lively memoir as well as a stirring critique, drawing on his own prison experiences. He served time for his leading role in the Pullman Strike in 1894, subsequently sent to the penitentiary again in 1919 for opposing World War I. In 1920, as Convict N. 9653, he ran for President on the Socialist ticket and received a million votes. Debs explains in this book why prisons don't (and can't) reform or deter anyone, and how prisons in fact create criminals. He discusses prison labor and the links between prison and militarism. Above all, he exposes the class bias of the entire US criminal justice system, showing that "the prison problem is directly correlated with poverty."
His conclusion: "Capitalism and crime have become almost synonymous terms." Arguing that prison "should not merely be reformed but abolished," Debs called for a socialism of solidarity, freedom and love, firmly rooted in industrial democracy, without which political democracy is a sham. Only with the advent of such a social revolution, in Debs's view, can society succeed in "taking the jail out of man as well taking man out of jail." This handsome new edition contains an important introduction by David Dellinger—himself a lifelong revolutionary, and no stranger to prisons.