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Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla
Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla
WhenTuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
WhereNorth Creek Events Center, Bothell
Event typesLectures/Seminars, Special Events
Event sponsorsUniversity of Washington Libraries
University of Washington Press

Join authors John McCoy and Dan Berger for a vital discussion of Concrete Mama, a rare in-depth photojournalistic exploration of a maximum-security prison in Washington State.

Journalists John McCoy and Ethan Hoffman spent four months inside the walls of the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla in 1978, just as Washington, once a leader in prison reform, abandoned its focus on reform and rehabilitation and returned to cell time and punishment. It was a brutal transition.

McCoy and Hoffman roamed the maximum-security compound almost at will, observing and befriending prisoners and guards. The result is a striking depiction of a community in which there was little to do, much to fear, and a culture that both mimicked and scorned the outside world. McCoy’s unadorned prose and Hoffman’s stunning black-and-white photographs offer as authentic a portrayal of life in prison as “outsiders” are ever likely to experience.

Originally published in 1981, Concrete Mama revealed a previously unseen stark and complex world of life on the inside, for which it won the Washington State Book Award. Long unavailable yet still relevant, it is revitalized in a second edition with an introduction by scholar Dan Berger that provides historical context for the book’s ongoing resonance, along with several previously unpublished photographs.

JOHN A. MCCOY is a former reporter and editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and has taught writing courses at the University of Washington Tacoma and Seattle University. ETHAN HOFFMAN (1949–1990) was a photographer for the London Sunday Times and Paris Match, and his photo essays appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Esquire, and Life. His photography has been exhibited in museums including the Smithsonian. DAN BERGER is associate professor at the University of Washington Tacoma, and an interdisciplinary historian focusing on critical prison studies. He is the author of several books, including Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, and coauthor most recently of Rethinking the American Prison Movement.

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