In this book, Bernstein explores the correctional, political, social, and aesthetic forces that prompted the rise of the “prison arts renaissance” of the 1970s. Bernstein also traces how, in turn, this movement inside prisons influenced American culture as the words and ideas of incarcerated writers, performers, and artists found their way to the Broadway stage, cinema, bestseller lists, and major museum exhibitions. Paradoxically, this movement was embedded in and informed by a cultural and political transformation taking shape inside America’s prisons at the precise moment when state and federal policy makers turned toward a “get tough on crime” approach. Bernstein addresses not only the ways in which incarcerated people living in this changing climate used writing, performance, and visual art while in prison, but also how the works they created influenced teaching, publishing, protest movements, and cultural life outside prison walls. Furthermore, a significant number of artists continued to teach or create meaningful works after they left prison. Given its timeliness as relates to public debate about American and international prisons, as well as Bernstein's evenhanded prose, this work will be useful for academics, students, and other readers interested in criminal justice, African American history, cultural history, and American studies.