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Bandits & Bibles: Convict Literature in Nineteenth-Century America

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What was life like for the gangs of New York and others thrown into the nineteenth-century slammer?

$14.95 $11.21

What people are saying…

“Fascinating . . . Sullivan is an impressive authority on the subject . . . This should be read by anyone interested in criminals, law, or social reform.”
Library Journal

“Sullivan’s years of research and judicious selection have created an extraordinary peek into the dark, hidden world of nineteenth-century American prison life.”
—James McGrath Morris, author of Jailhouse Journalism


In 1876 the Jesse James and Cole Younger gang rode into Northfield, Minnesota, intent on robbing the local bank. Townsmen were waiting for the famous outlaws and they suffered the greatest rout of their careers. The James brothers fled, Clell Miller was killed, and the three Youngers got shot up and thrown into the Minnesota State Prison in Stillwater. Years later, Cole Younger wrote his rip-roaring account of the great raid on Northfield and his ensuing time behind bars. Younger is just one of the more famous outlaws who took to writing while incarcerated.

Bandits & Bibles presents a lively array of selections from convict autobiographies that cover every facet of the prisoners’ lives—crimes, arrests and convictions, punishments inflicted, and, in some cases, spiritual awakening. The harrowing tales of convict life presented in this volume leave no doubt that prison in the nineteenth century was far from easy. Hard labor in coal mines, whippings, solitary confinement in bare unheated cells, water torture, and iron maidens: these were just a few of the punishments meted out to these prisoners and vividly recounted in these pages.

Only memoirs such as these, printed after the convicts’ release or smuggled out of prison, tell the other side of prison life and help paint a true picture of what went on behind the bars of the Big House . . .

Book Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Published: 2/1/03
  • IBSN: 9781888451375


Dr. LARRY E. SULLIVAN is chief librarian of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Professor of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. He is the author of The Prison Reform Movement: Forlorn Hope, editor of Bandits & Bibles: Convict Literature in Nineteenth-Century America, as well as author or editor of numerous other books and articles in history, penology, and other disciplines. Sullivan is currently the editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of Law Enforcement.

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