While reading Prison Riot, I was struck by how similar this story is to the classic Melville novella, Billy Budd. Of course, the latter was written in a much more stilted voice, and was built on Biblical allegory – but the thread of the story is very much the same.
Here we have a power struggle between a cruel and sadistic Corrections Lieutenant, and a fair minded but ineffectual Warden. The victim in that power struggle ends up being the innocent – the powerless everyman,whom in the Melville book was represented by Billy, and in Prison Riot is represented by B.J. and his friend, Giant.
Where the analogy breaks down however, is that Billy Budd was fiction.
Suspension of disbelief is not necessary when the writer actually lived through the hell of the California prison system. As a student of literature, I can think…
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