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Reviewed by Lorraine Cobcroft for Readers' Favorite
Prison From the Inside Out by William ‘Mecca’ Elmore and Susan Simone is subtitled ‘One Man’s Journey From a Life Sentence to Freedom’. It is the story of William Elmore’s journey from a challenging world that presented him with irresistible temptations to mistakes, trial, prison, and ultimately release and readjustment. It is also his mother’s and his sister’s story of supporting him, and Susan Simone’s story of becoming involved and deciding to document these stories via an oral history project. Prison from the Inside Out tells the story in William’s own words and in the words of his mother, sister, friends, and cellmates. It is raw and confronting. It does not sidestep ugly realities, nor does it seek to condone or excuse wrongs. Rather, while acknowledging William Elmore’s crime, it exposes both social problems that bring people into conflict with the system, and the flaws in the justice and prison system that challenge those who seek rehabilitation.
William Elmore was a lucky man. He had two strong and determined women in his camp, supporting him and building hope. His mother and his sister never gave up on him. They, and Susan Simone, have a clear message for those involved in the justice and prison system. Allowing the destruction of hope and the loss of all sense of personal value is the surest way to ensure the failure of the justice system - to make reform and rehabilitation impossible. If you share the common belief that our justice system protects the innocent and offers the guilty a road to redemption, reading this book might change your view of the world. It should be compulsory reading for every police officer, lawyer, lawmaker, politician, and most importantly, for all who work in the prison system. But everyone who ever thought they knew anything about temptation, crime, and punishment should read it. Everyone who ever believed that all those who fall foul of the legal system made a simple choice should consider William’s perspective. This powerful story shines a light in the darkest corners of a flawed system and offers those who care the chance to join movements for urgently needed reform.
I salute Susan Simone for having the courage to engage in this project; William Elmore for having the strength and conviction to tell his story honestly and without bitterness; and his mother and sister for having the courage to stand by him through his journey. Most of all, I salute all who work tirelessly and against the odds to drive reforms in the justice and prison system, to guide at-risk youth, and to assist released prisoners to rebuild their lives and remain free. If you care about justice, read this book.