The Big House: Life Inside a Supermax Security Prison by James Bruton reads like a thriller and describes life inside prison wall through the unique view of the warden. Bruton was the warden at Oak Park Heights at the turn of this last century. He experienced the most extreme cases of violence and depravity in our society.
Bruton’s book introduces the reader to the most extreme offenders in society. He includes the background and knowledge of murderers, rapists, thieves, child molesters, drug smugglers, and gang members. He tells the story of how these societal outcasts interact and live daily in the high pressure cooker of a Supermax prison. As a result, The Big House: Life Inside a Supermax Security Prison reads like the male, literary version of the Orange is the New Black Netflix series. In the book we can find many specifics about how it feels to be inside a tiny prison cell, how it sounds to be part of a cellblock (with all of the cuss words included), how it looks to be inside a drab prison yard bordered by barbed and razored wire, and how feels to be subjected to the isolation of the “hole.”
Bruton’s work enlightens the reader as to how the staff of the prison worked alongside these dangerous criminals and were able to make Oak Park Heights one of the safest and most secure prisons in the penal system. Bruton’s unique perspective enlightens the reader to the most important aspects of working and surviving in this high stress environment. The Big House: Life Inside a Supermax Security Prison ends up being a very good look at the life inside a modern prison.