I didn't think I would enjoy this book but it was very well written and informative. It provides a real life view of the life of the prisoners and guards in the one of the most secure prisons in our country. I enjoyed reading about the reasons some of these men became criminals and the reason some of the guards are hated so much.
If you are interested in the penal system, or Leavenworth in particular, you will enjoy this book. You meet not only individual prisoners, but wardens, guards and some of their families. Earley did a very good job of being objective and still allowed you a very intimate look into a system that is a world unto itself. This book was written in the early 1990's and mostly covers the 1980's, but not a lot has changed when it comes to the penal system - a slow moving world unto itself.
I was resistant at first because at first I didn't really care for true prison type of crime stories, but I was blown away! A great true to life book, a must read for anybody wanting to go into corrections.....as I did years later. For anybody that has read the book, go to Pete Earley's website and you will get a complete follow ups on all of the characters in this book since it publication.
A few months ago, I read Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover. I thought that book was decent and made me thirsty for another book on prison life. When I came across this book, I was quite intrigued. Anyone who knows anything about the prison system has heard of Leavenworth. I knew Leavenworth housed some pretty tough people, so I picked up this book and was ready for a remarkable read.
To be honest, when I picked up The Hot House, I did not realize there were multiple correctional facilities in Leavenworth, Kansas. This book focuses on the Leavenworth United States Penitentiary (as opposed to Fort Leavenworth Prison used by the military or Leavenworth County Jail). The author was given complete and unguided access to the Leavenworth Penitentiary. He could go where he wanted and speak to whomever he desired.
The author does not outright tell a story of what life at Leavenworth is like. Rather, he tells the story through the inmates and guards. Much of the book focus on 5 inmates, Thomas Little, a young bank robber sent to Leavenworth after being considered an escape risk, rumored to be Mrs. Carl Bowles; Carl Bowles, a triple murderer and log time resident of Leavenworth; Thomas Silverstein, an inmate condemned to life in isolation after killing a guard at another prison; William Post, a bank robber who became known as the Catman; and Dallas Scott, a bank robber and suspected White Supremacist. Through these five inmates, the reader is able to assemble a picture of what life on the inside is like. The inmates discuss inmate rules, politics, stories of conflict, their hopes and dreams, and what makes them go on day after day. Most inmates even talk about the events that led them to their stay in Leavenworth.
Just as important, the author tells the stories of the guards and personnel that run the prison. The guards tell the story of what life is like at the prison for them. The author researches some ugly incidents involving guards and their personal lives that show what working in constant stress will do to a person.
The author does an excellent job telling a neutral story. While the stories told by the various people in the book come together to paint a terrific picture of life inside Leavenworth, the book left me with the feeling that the words were still being written by an outsider (I am not sure why I feel this way). Overall, the book was an enjoyable read. While it does not have the first personal intimacy that Newjack offered, The Hot House definitely gives a more exciting perspective on prison life.
Holy cow did this book make me sit up and take notice! There's so much going on behind the scenes, Pete Earley is more man that most - to dare going behind 'enemy lines' to see what life is like in Leavenworth.
Anyone who is interested in the criminal mind and/or what our top security prison are like will be interested in this book. I would have like the author to go in a little more detail about some of the cases but overhaul it is well written and will certainly keep your interest.