The first published review of Unusual Punishment is from the Portland Book Review. They gave it a five star rating and called it an “incredible piece of journalism.’ The full review can be read by clicking here.

Comments from people who received advance review copies of the book. I’m honored to have the following endorsements:

Christopher Murray succeeds brilliantly in telling the fascinating story of the evolution of Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Unusual Punishment is a delightful mix of storytelling and history, which at the same time is informative, insightful and entertaining. . . . This is the most comprehensive analysis I have ever seen of the evolution of a state prison system, and we would all do well to heed its important lessons. I recommend it most highly.

Joan Petersilia
Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law at Stanford Law School

Christopher Murray captures the turbulent, chaotic and violent era of the Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington as if he were an eye witness to events. Unusual Punishment pulls no punches in exposing the absence of leadership, inept management and lack of courage in allowing the inmate culture to overtake an entire prison and the price many paid to take it back. It’s a must read for any correctional leader.

Ned Loughran
Executive Director, Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators

Murray’s astonishing story of the penitentiary in the 1970s is told with an even hand, employing a strong narrative with effective anecdotes and occasional humor.  He portrays the key players with a genuine feeling for their strengths, weaknesses and challenges. In doing so, he has made a valuable contribution in documenting a unique prison experiment that went very wrong.

 John A. McCoy
Author: Concrete Mama, Prison Profiles from Walla Walla.

Unusual Punishment is a terrific, if unsettling, even chilling, read. It chronicles in sober prose what can go so very wrong when prison managers are naïve and incompetent. Inmates and staff pay with their lives. Every up and coming prison official should read this book.

James B. Jacobs
Warren E. Burger professor of Law at NYU
Author: Stateville: The Penitentiary in Mass Society

Imagine a U.S. maximum security prison where guards had no keys to inmate club rooms and their leaders were free to roam the facility all night “conducting business.” Unusual Punishment tells the story of Washington State’s experiments with inmate freedoms and self-governance during the 70s and early 80s and the subsequent descent into violence. For students of public policy and criminal justice, the book offers a rare glimpse into choices correctional leaders face on a daily basis and the consequences to inmates when prison leaders lose control.

Roxanne Lieb
Former Director, Washington State Institute for Public Policy

Unusual Punishment is a compact, easily readable, but frightening narrative of an experiment in prison reform that turned a traditional “Big House” prison into a decade-long slow-motion train wreck. It took years of struggle to restore order and control. While the events occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, the lessons that come from this important work still need to be heard and heeded. The question is: which elements does strong narrative writing always contain?

William C. Collins
Editor Emeritus, Correctional Law Journal and former Senior Assistant Attorney General representing the Washington State Department of Corrections

Unusual Punishment vividly describes the Washington State Penitentiary in the 1970s, documenting incidents that have become central to the prison’s folklore.  Christopher Murray has woven a compelling story, capturing the drama, complexity, and occasional humor of the years when the “inmates ran the joint.”  Both entertaining and enlightening, this is a book that will appeal to a broad audience.

Scott Frakes
Director, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services


Prepublication awards:

Southwest Writers 32nd Annual Contest: 2nd Place to Christopher Murray for his creative nonfiction work, Unusual PunishmentPNWW Literary Contest: Chrstopher Murray, finalist for his nonfiction work, Unusual Punishment

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