Book Launch: Mr. Smith Goes to Prison

New School urban policy professor Jeff Smith will read from his new book, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America's Prison Crisis. This event is co-sponsored by the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy (http://www.newschool.edu/milano), the Center for New York City Affairs (http://www.centernyc.org), and Humanities Action Lab (http://humanitiesactionlab.org).

Following a brief reading from the book, author Touré will moderate a discussion about criminal justice reform with Professor Jeff Smith, Soffiyah Elijah (Executive Director of Correctional Association of New York), Dr. Carla Shedd (Columbia University sociologist), and Melissa Mark Viverito (New York City Council Speaker).

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A detailed description of the book is below:

The fall from politico to prisoner isn't necessarily long, Smith—a former Missouri State Senator—learned, but the landing is a hard one.

In 2009, Smith pleaded guilty to charges related to seemingly minor campaign malfeasance and earned himself a year and a day in Kentucky's FCI Manchester. Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is the story of his time in the big house—of the people he met there and the things he learned: how to escape the attentions of fellow prisoner Big C and his pals in the Aryan Brotherhood; what constitutes a prison car and who's allowed to ride in yours; how to bend and break the rules, whether you're a prisoner or correctional officer. And throughout his sentence, the young Senator tracked the greatest crime of all: the deliberate waste of untapped human potential.

Smith saw the power of millions of inmates harnessed as a source of renewable energy for America's prison-industrial complex, a system that exploits racial tension and bias, building better criminals instead of better citizens. In Mr. Smith Goes to Prison, he traces the cracks in America's prison walls, exposing the shortcomings of a race-based cycle of poverty and crime that sets inmates up to fail. Now an urban policy professor, Smith’s blend of academic training, real-world political acumen, and insights from a sometimes harrowing year on the inside help him offer practical solutions to jailbreak the nation from the crushing grip of its own prisons, and to jumpstart the rehabilitation of the millions behind bars.

Early Reviews:

"Mr. Smith Goes to Prison joins Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow as essential reading on America's greatest failure: our prison system. I was transfixed by this book: a middle class white politician goes to prison for some hard time and turns out to be a great writer and a keen observer and interpreter of all he sees. Anyone who wants to work on fixing the prison system ought to start by reading this riveting book." -Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean

"This is a terrific and timely book with a compelling narrative that challenges us to think more critically about what mass incarceration is doing to all of us." -Bryan Stevenson, Equal Justice Institute Founder

"Well-written and insightful, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison asks us to question the way opportunity and punishment are apportioned in our society. Prepare for a bevy of emotions: humor and frustration; elation and grievance. This book and this story are great platforms to better understand the way our justice system works, and what can be done to address its fissures." -Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore

"This eye-opening book reminds us that prison can be steps away for anyone, no matter what the profession. This book is needed to jump-start a national conversation about over-incarceration and rational criminal justice reform." -U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).