Lee Bernstein ’89 has published a new book, titled “America is the Prison: Arts and Politics in Prison in The 1970s.” The book discusses a “renaissance” of prison artwork that emerged during the decade, and explores the political forces that helped start it. Bernstein examines the environment that helped spur incarcerated people to create beautiful and potent works, ranging from literature to theater to traditional art. He also explains how the movement impacted American society in the ensuing decades.
“This is a valuable contribution to the burgeoning study of one of America’s central institutions and features: the prison,” said H. Bruce Franklin, a professor of English and American studies at Rutgers University. He praised the book for exploring a “crucial period of transformation” in the country’s prison system.
Bernstein graduated in 1989 from Hobart College. He was an English major and received a number of honors while on campus.
He authored another book of a similar nature back in 2002, “The Greatest Menace: Organized Crime in Cold War America.” He was an assistant professor of American studies at San Jose State University at the time, as well as a visiting assistant professor of American culture at Vassar College. Bernstein now works at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is the chair and associate professor of the history department.