Book Corner:

Tainting Evidence -
Inside the Scandals of the FBI Crime Lab

By John F. Kelly & Phillip K. Wearne
The Free Press -ISBN 0684846462
Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize
Review by Robert S. Ortloff, POW and victim of FBI Crime Lab Misconduct

Because of America's near-religious faith in science, the FBI created for itself a reputation based mostly on its laboratory's legendary ability to solve crimes through science and technology. During the past couple of years, however, the FBI's standing as the world leader in the scientific analysis of evidence has been exposed as the well-designed ruse it was.

Tainting Evidence, a powerful new book by John F. Kelly & Phillip K. Wearne, exposes the FBI's forensic fantasies as a scientific charade which hid a disturbing culture of prosecution bias rather than truth seeking, including the illegal withholding of exculpatory information. FBI experts often give scientifically flawed, inaccurate and overstated testimony under oath, they alter laboratory reports to give them a prosecution slant, and they fail miserably to document tests and examinations from which they draw incriminating conclusions. The documented failures of the lab, which include such high-profile, cases such as the World Trade Center bombing, the siege at Ruby Ridge, and the Vanrac bombings, the authors argue, are not isolated simply isolated events, but rather overwhelming evidence of systematic bureaucratic rot.

And this bodes ill for our country. The FBI continues to expand its reach beyond its original mandate of investigating federal crimes, and is eagerly pushing to broaden even further the role of the FBI crime laboratory in the processing of evidence for state and county investigators and prosecutors throughout the United States. With the FBI lab doing sloppy, biased and scientifically unsound forensic work, our society suffers, individuals are falsely convicted, and every American's fundamental protections to due process are further weakened.

Examining how well or poorly a powerful and secretive agency like the FBI performs its work in one of the most difficult and important tasks that any reporter can take head-on. With Tainting Evidence, Kelly and Wearne have met this challenge, exposing the FBI's practice of denial and cover-ups and successfully documenting a shocking condition within our system that should outrage every American concerned with justice.

Criminal Injustice - Confronting the Prison Crisis

Edited by Elihu Rosenblatt / PARC Published by South End Press
Review By Russell Bentley, POW

Criminal Injustice is probably the best book on prison conditions and prison reform available today. It is a comprehensive examination of the prison situation in contemporary America, how and why things got to this point and what we have to do to change them. This book is filled with compelling and up to date data and ideas, and should be considered required reading for all activists working on behalf of prisoners and their families.

Contributors to this excellent book include teachers, prisoners, religious organizations and death row inmates. The statistics and descriptions of conditions are startling and sometimes terrifying, and the arguments for change are eloquent and persuasive.

Prisoners will find this book enlightening and encouraging and prison reform activists will find the information to be useful in a variety of situations. Subjects covered include:

The Economic Role of the U. S. Prison System, The Politics of Super Incarceration, Legislating Repression, AIDS in Prison, Women in Prison, American Political Prisoners, and The Death Penalty. There is an appendix on how to organize as well as contact info on the contributors and prison reform organizations across the country. PARC also offers a free guide to organizing that can be obtained by writing to the address enclosed. If information is ammunition, (and it is), then this book is a literary A-bomb. Get it, read it, use it.

Books for Prisoners by Prisoners:
Reviews By Russell Bentley, POW

One of the few good things about doing time is the opportunity to read, when you're not down in the salt mine or out in the cotton fields. The following is a list of books by prisoners about their prison experiences, books that I have found to be enlightening and very worthwhile. Prisoners may be able to order these titles through Inter Library Loan, or friends and families of prisoners can use this list of books for their own education or to send to their loved ones behind bars.

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - Gulag Archipelago, parts I and II, The First Circle, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. - A Russian political prisoner's impression of Stalin's gulags. These books give a taste of what the US prison system will become without prison reform.

Berrigan, Phil - Prison Journals of a Priest Revolutionary - Anti-war, anti-nuke political activist, did fed time in the 60's and is currently back in the B.O.P. for political acts.

Havel, Vaclav - Living in Truth - Czech political activist, did 5 years for political acts. Currently President of Czech Repub. Though Havel seems to have sold out since becoming Prez, and his other book, Letters to Olga, isn't that good, Living in Truth is a thoroughly excellent book.

Mandela, Nelson - Long Road To Freedom - Mandela did 25 years in South Africa prisons for political acts, and went on to become President of South Africa. Nelson paid his dues. A righteous read. Inspiring.

Frankl, Viktor - Man's Search For Meaning - Frankl did 3 years in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Probably the best book in existence on enduring the hardships and suffering of jail.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich - Letters and Writings From Prison- Lutheran theologian who was arrested and subsequently executed for aiding the plot to kill Hitler. Deep.

Adams, Gerry - Cage Eleven - Political activist in North Ireland who did 4 years in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh prison for IRA activity. Current leader of Sinn Fein political party.

Dumas, Alexander - The Count of Monte Cristo - Dumas was a POW in the 1800's and went on to write this excellent adventure and killer thriller about escape, honor and pay-back. Lots of fun.

Wachler, Sol - After The Madness - New York State Judge gets a tour through the B.O.P. on the wrong side of the bars, for the crime of "inter-state sexual harassment". Kind of whiney, and fairly amusing, but with some valid observations, particularly about marijuana prisoners. Very current - 1996

All of the above books, with the exception of the last two were written by political prisoners. I've read and enjoyed them all, and learned something from every single one. I recommend them to all my fellow prisoners and anyone else interested in learning more about the prisoner's perspective. The collective lesson from these books is that not all ex-cons flip burgers or catch another bit- some become famous writers and some even become presidents!