In The Beautiful Prison incarcerated Americans and prison critics seek to imagine the prison as something better than a machinery of suffering. From personal testimony to theoretical meditation these writers explore and confront the practical and cultural limits the prison places on its transformation into a socially constructive institution. Long-term prisoner Kenneth E. Hartman engages the reader in his struggle to find beauty inside the increasingly bleak and sterile confines of the California Department of Corrections. Chuck Jackson releases his imagination on Houston's notorious Harris County Jail to envision a jailhouse transformed into a university, community, and arts center. Between the grip of the CDC and utopian vision, Leder, Ginsburg, Pinkert, and Brown report on their practical and theoretical work to understand what the prison has been and might be. The Beautiful Prison suggests that any passage from 'ugly prisons' into institutions serving the greater good will only be possible when the will and intellectual capital of their inhabitants are met by free-world critics ready to challenge assumptions of the prison acting solely as an apparatus of punishment.