Decades Behind Bars – Book Review

“Decades Behind Bars – A 20 Year Conversation with Men in America’s Prisons”  by Gaye D. Holman

This book is written by a professor of Sociology who spent decades teaching college-level courses to prisoners in Kentucky. She also teaches a “Corrections” course at Bellarmine College through the Veritas program. This is where I met Holman, a bright and warm individual who has a passion for criminal justice.

(See “Corrections” 1-3 earlier in this blog)

Her book is excellent on two levels. First, she follows fifty prisoners for twenty years who had been convicted of felonies. Her study of these fifty men began in 1994 when they were her students in college degree programs which she coordinated for a local college. When she followed up on these men seventeen were still imprisoned after twenty years. Her interviews with most of the original fifty and excerpts from their letters are very enlightening and sometimes heartbreaking. Holman helps the reader to see this population as humans rather than just prisoners.

Secondly, the author includes interviews with many who are involved in the criminal justice system so there is much more than just her opinions and the prisoners’ side of things. She quotes correction officers, wardens, Parole Board members, chaplains, and others.

Gaye Holman, now retired, remains involved with ex-offenders helping them to successfully re-enter freedom.

The book includes a very helpful glossary of prison terms along with chapter notes and bibliography. I recommend this book if you are interested in the subject of criminal justice.


“A duty to the public must be to stop prisoners reoffending through successful rehabilitation.” Sadiq Khan


3 thoughts on “Decades Behind Bars – Book Review

  1. Thank you, Sue. Sadly, too little attention is paid to this subject. I am unsure if it because society says, “You reap what you sow”, or if it is the attitude that since it doesn’t involve me, I don’t care. I am impressed by those, like Gaye Homan, who look beyond the surface. It is enlightening.

    Liked by 1 person

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