Hallinan, Joseph T. Going up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation. Random House, 2001.

Hallinan looks at prisons that were built “not because it was needed but because it was wanted-by politicians who thought it would bring them votes, by voters who hoped it would bring them jobs, and by a corrections establishment that no longer believed in correction.” He addresses the prison boom: facilities quickly built for economic reasons, resulting in poor prison conditions and a system so lucrative that its founders have become rich. The author also looks at the stories of current wardens, guards, inmates and townspeople living in the shadow of a prison.

Human Rights Watch. Prison Conditions in the United States: A Human Rights Watch Report. 1991.

Visiting two supermaximum security prisons in Indiana, the Human Rights Watch examined inhumane treatment prisoners receive. The prisoners in those facilities spend an average of 23 hours a day in a small, often windowless cells, facing years of extreme social isolation, enforced idleness, and limited recreational or educational opportunities. The Human Rights Watch pays special attention to the treatment of those with pre-existing mental illnesses.