Lifers: Seeking Redemption in Prison (Paperback) book cover


Seeking Redemption in Prison

By John Irwin

© 2009 – Routledge

152 pages

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Paperback: 9780415801980
pub: 2009-06-23
Hardback: 9780415801683
pub: 2009-06-23
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203876220
pub: 2010-03-17
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John Irwin writes about prisons from an unusual academic perspective. Before receiving a Ph.D. in sociology, he served five years in a California state penitentiary for armed robbery. This is his sixth book on imprisonment – an ethnography of prisoners who have served more than twenty years in a California correctional institution. The purpose of the book is to take issue with the conventional wisdom on homicide, society’s purposes of imprisonment, and offenders’ reformability. Through the lifers’ stories, he reveals what happens to prisoners serving very long sentences in correctional facilities and what this should tell us about effective sentencing policy.


"No one knows prisons and prisoners better than John Irwin as he uses the unique perspective of a former prisoner to inform us about 17 "lifers" serving time in California’s infamous San Quentin prison. Students, scholars, public officials and the general public must read this book!"

—Randall G. Shelden, Criminal Justice, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. The Lifers 3.Their Crimes 4. Awakening 5. Atonement 6. California Lifers’ 7. Epilogue

About the Author

John Irwin taught sociology at San Francisco State University for 27 years, during which time he studied prisons and jails. His research was published in five books. He was also a member of the Working Party for the American Friends Service Committee that wrote the influential report--The Struggle for Justice. He worked closely with the California legislature on the Uniform Sentencing Act passed in 1976.

About the Series

Criminology and Justice Studies

Criminology and Justice Studies publishes books for undergraduate and graduate courses that model the best scholarship and innovative thinking in the criminology and criminal justice field today, but in a style that connects this scholarship to a wide audience of students, researchers, and possibly the general public.

We are particularly interested in proposals that offer a global perspective on crime and justice, that present a novel approach to more traditional areas of study, or that develop a new way to incorporate the wide and evolving array of digital technologies available to college and university instructors. If you have a publishing project to propose, we look forward to hearing from you!

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General