What’s Prison For?

What’s Prison For?
Punishment and Rehabilitation in the Age of Mass Incarceration

What happens inside our prisons?

What's Prison For? examines the “incarceration” part of “mass incarceration.” What happens inside prisons and jails, where nearly two million Americans are held? Bill Keller, one of America’s most accomplished journalists, has spent years deeply immersed in the subject. He argues that prisons must become places where rehabilitation is a top priority, and introduces us to reformers who are trying to prepare incarcerated people for a better life on the outside.

Keller takes us inside the walls of our prisons, where we meet men and women who have found purpose while in state custody; American corrections officials who have set out to learn from Europe’s state-of-the-art prison campuses; a rehab unit within a Pennsylvania prison, dubbed Little Scandinavia, where lifers serve as mentors; a college behind bars in San Quentin; a rare women's prison that helps imprisoned mothers bond with their children; and Keller's own classroom at Sing Sing. What's Prison For? is an indispensable guide to our prison system, and a powerful argument that the status quo is a shameful waste of human potential.


Read Nicholas Lemann’s Letter to the Reader

What’s Prison For?
  • ISBN: 9781735913742
  • Price: $16.00
  • E-book ISBN: 9781735913759
  • On Sale: October 4, 2022

About the author

Bill Keller

Bill Keller is founding editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project, an independent nonprofit news organization focused on crime and punishment in the U.S. He previously spent 30 years at the New York Times as a correspondent, editor, and op-ed columnist. As a foreign correspondent, he reported on the collapse of the Soviet Union, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1989. Following Moscow, he became chief of the Times bureau in Johannesburg, covering the end of white rule in South Africa. During his eight years as executive editor, from 2003 to 2011, the Times won 18 Pulitzer Prizes. He lives in Southampton, New York.  @billkeller2014