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Prison Etiquette

Prison Etiquette

The Convict's Compendium of Useful Information

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Edited by Holley Cantine and Dachine Rainer. Foreword by Philip Metres.


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
176 pages, 6 x 9, 11 illustrations


Additional Materials

About the Book

Of the fifty thousand Americans who declared themselves conscientious objectors during World War II, nearly six thousand went to prison, many serving multiyear sentences in federal lockups. Some conscientious objectors, notably Robert Lowell, William Everson, and William Stafford, went on to become important figures in the literary life of their country, while others were participants and teachers in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. This long out-of-print book, reprinted from the rare original 1951 edition, collects firsthand accounts by conscientious objectors who were imprisoned for their beliefs.

Prison Etiquette is illustrated with eleven line drawings by Lowell Naeve.


Holley Cantine and Dachine Rainer, along with artist Lowell Naeve, were confined in federal prison as conscientious objectors during World War II. Naeve was a participant in the infamous 1943 inmate strike to desegregate the Danbury Prison mess hall, an event that led Danbury to become the first federal prison to abolish segregation.


“Maybe you will never go to prison, either willingly or unwillingly. Maybe you disagree completely with the stand which these men took. . . . But . . . the problems raised by this book extend far beyond the usual categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ expediency and inexpediency. They touch all our lives. . . . I wish it could be read by everybody in the United States.”—Christopher Isherwood, from the preface

“What are, and what should be, the relations between an individual and his society, between majorities and dissenting minorities? How is the age-old conflict of Man versus the State to be resolved? Which things are to be rendered unto Caesar and which unto God? And why does Caesar so constantly get mistaken for God, why do professional God-servers so constantly hanker to be mistaken for Caesar? These are perennial and ubiquitous questions. The philosophers of politics and religion ask and try to answer them in polysyllabic words and comprehensive generalizations.
“The authors of these narratives adopt another and, for certain purposes, a better method. Their approach to the subject is concrete and existential. Posed in this way, the ancient questions take on a new urgency, a more distressing significance. For they have been transplanted from the dim respectable regions of abstract thought to the vivid world of particular experience.”—Aldous Huxley