Bauer moved to rural Louisiana in 2014 to work undercover as a guard at the Winn Correctional Center, a privately run prison. He lasted four months before his deception was discovered, but that turned out to be more than sufficient to write a searing exposé for Mother Jones, which earned him a National Magazine Award and an invitation to speak to officials in Washington about problems in for-profit prisons. With this book, Bauer has expanded his article into a comprehensive analysis impossible to ignore. His book is a meticulous catalog of horrors, from the historical precursors — the practice of convict-leasing at Southern prisons after the Civil War, in which inmates were rented out to companies as a captive work force — to the rampant violence, neglect and incompetence that pervade a multibillion-dollar industry.

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