The most dreaded facility in the prison system because of its fierce population, Leavenworth is governed by ruthless clans competing for dominance. Among the "star" players in these pages: Carl Cletus Bowles, the sexual predator with a talent for murder; Dallas Scott, a gang member who has spent almost thirty of his forty-two years behind bars; indomitable Warden Robert Matthews, who put his shoulder against his prison's grim reality; Thomas Silverstein, a sociopath confined in "no human contact" status since 1983; "tough cop" guard Eddie Geouge, the only officer in the penitentiary with the authority to sentence an inmate to "the Hole"; and William Post, a bank robber with a criminal record going back to when he was eight years old - and known as the "Catman" for his devoted care of the cats who live inside the prison walls.
With the cooperation of the Bureau of Prisons, Earley ( Family of Spies ) spent much time from mid-1987 to mid-1989 at Leavenworth, a maximum-security institution whose nickname, the Hot House, derives from its lack of air conditioning despite the searing Kansas summers. Interviewing the warden, the guards from captains on down and the convicts, many of whom are imprisoned for shocking crimes, the author takes readers into the mind of the recidivist criminal to show an egoistic, violent nature locked into a code of behavior with elements of machismo, hyper-sensitivity to slights and the conviction that informing is the greatest crime of all. There is also hatred of guards, who hate back, all this played out against a backdrop of racism, sexual exploitation, constant tension and sometimes gratuitous cruelty by the staff and the bureau toward the inmates. A remarkable book. (Feb.)