Reading List for People working with the Incarcerated Population

Recommended Reading for Prison Work put together by me.

This is a very general reading list.

Many of these can be categorized under more than one heading. 

Please share this with anyone you know who is interested in working with the incarcerated.




-Freeing the Angry Mind; How Men can use Mindfulness and Reason to Save Their Lives and Relationships

Peter Bankart, Ph.D.


-That Bird Has My Wings-The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row

Jarvis Jay Masters


-Finding Freedom; Writings from Death Row

Jarvis Jay Masters


-Just Another Spiritual Book

Bo Lozoff


-It’s a Meaningful Life-It Just Takes Practice

Bo Lozoff


-We’re All Doing Time

Bo Lozoff


-Letters From The Dhamma Brothers

Jenny Phillips


-Razor Wire Dharma-A Buddhist Live in Prison

Calvin Malone


-Sitting Inside; Buddhist Practice in America’s Prisons

Kobai Scott Whitney

  • see my review of this book here:

-Dharma in Hell: The Prison Writings of Fleet Maull

Fleet Maull


Prison Culture


-I’m in God’s Confinement; San Quentin Death Row

 Albert “Ru-al” Jones * please read this book! Ru is in my

Death Row Sangha, is a great scholar of religion, and gives

a painfully realistic view of life on San Quentin’s Death Row.



-Walking the Circle

J. Tony Serra


-Gang Intelligence Manual

Bill Valentine



-Prison Ministry; Understanding Prison Culture Inside and Out

Lennie Spitale


-Newjack; Guarding Sing Sing

Ted Conover


-Fourth City-Essays From the Prison in America

edited by Doran Larson


-From the Big House to Your House-

Misc Authors


Crossing the Yard; Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer

Richard Shelton


-Wilderness and Razor Wire; a naturalist’s observations from prison

-Ken Lamberton


-Inside: Life Behind Bars in America

Michael G. Santos


-Disguised as a Poem; My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin

Judith Tannenbaum


-By Heart; Poetry, Prison and Two Lives

Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson


-Serving Time, Serving Others: Acts of Kindness by Inmates, Prison Staff, Victims and Volunteers

Tom and Laura Lagana


-Women in Prison-Inside the Concrete Womb

Kathryn Watterson


Inside the Broken California Prison System

Boston Woodard


-Restorative Justice/ Corrections/Criminology


Corrections, Peacemaking and Restorative Justice: Transforming Individuals and Institutions

Michael Braswell, et al


-The Little Book of Restorative Justice

Howard Zehr


The Rise and Fall of California’s Radical Prison Movement

Cummins, Eric


-The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Punishment

Richard Snyder


Total Confinement: Madness and Reason in the Maximum Security Prison (California Series in Public Anthropology)

Lorna A. Rhodes


-The Lucifer Effect; Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

Philip Zimbardo


-A Reader on Punishment

Edited by Antony Duff and David Garland


-The Society of Captives; A Study of a Maximum Security Prison

Gresham M. Sykes


-Beyond Bars-Rejoining Society After Prison

Jeffrey Ian Ross, Ph. D


-Last Chance in Texas; The Redemption of Criminal Youth

John Hubner


-Tattoo on the Heart-The Power of Boundless Compassion

Fr. Greg Boyle




-Prison Ministry; Understanding Prison Culture Inside and Out

Lennie Spitale


-The Arts of Contemplative Care-Pioneering Voices in Buddhist Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work

Edited by Cheryl A. Giles and Willa B. Miller


-Prison Chaplaincy Guidelines for Zen Buddhism

Kobutsu Malone


-Dying in Prison; Counseling the Terminal Inmate

Donalyn A. Gross


– Death Row Chaplain

Rev. Earl Smith



-Women Who Love Men Who Kill- Sheila Isenberg


-Men Who Rape; The Psychology of the Offender

Nicholas Groth with H. Jean Birnbaum


-Misogyny, Misandry, and Misanthropy

Howard Bloch


-Healing the Shame that Binds You

John Bradshaw


-Masters of Disguise; Shame and Guilt

Jane Middleton-Moz


Dimensions of Forgiveness: Psychological Research & Theological Perspectives

Everett L. Worthington, Jr.


Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them : When Loving Hurts and You Don’t Know Why

Forward, Susan


On the Problem of Empathy: The Collected Works of Edith Stein (3rd Volume)

Edith Stein


Miscellaneous  Must-Reads


-From the Big House to Your House; cooking in prison

(a collection of recipes by women prisoners)



Occupying Privilege-Conversations on Love, Race and Liberation

-JLove Calderon


-The New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander


-Criminal of Poverty

Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia


Chronicles of San Quentin: The Biography of a Prison

Kenneth Lamott



A few documentaries:


-The War on Drugs

-Crips and Bloods; Made in America

-Tupac Thug Angel


-Kirin Bidi

-Lost for Life

-The Dhamma Brothers

-The Last OG (kinda funny but real story of reentry starring Tracy Morgan) on Netflix

Home is Where the Heart is