Concrete Mama

Concrete Mama

Prison Profiles from Walla Walla

Photographs by Ethan Hoffman

by John A. McCoy

Introduction by Dan Berger

Published by: University of Washington Press

288 pages, 229.00 x 203.00 mm, 128 b&w illus.

  • ISBN: 9780295743981
  • Published: October 2018

£26.99

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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 the Big House 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by scholar Dan Berger that provides historical context for the book's ongoing resonance, along with several previously unpublished photographs.