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Unusual PunishmentUnusual Punishment

Inside the Walla Walla Prison, 1970-1985

Christopher B. Murray

Narrated by John N. Gully

Approximately 11 hours


Downloadable edition:

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Book published by Washington State University Press

Unusual Punishment ignites the explosive story of failed reform at one Washington State penitentiary as well as the complex, challenging, and painful path back from chaos.

Christopher B. Murray first went behind the walls of the Washington State Penitentiary in July 1976, as an employee of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.


“A terrific, if unsettling, even chilling, read.”

—James B. Jacobs, Warren E. Burger Professor of Law at NYU and author of Stateville: The Penitentiary in Mass Society

“This is the most comprehensive analysis I have ever seen of the evolution of a state prison system.”

—Joan Petersilia, Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law at Stanford Law School

“Like the Stanford Prison Experiment, Unusual Punishment is a rare glimpse into the psychology of both inmates and correctional officers. Except, Unusual Punishment does not document a study of volunteers pretending to be inmates and guards but a real-life prison.... [An] incredible piece of journalism.”

Portland Book Review

Unusual Punishment gives readers inside baseball inside the walls. The book paints a vivid picture of the prison from 1970 to 1985.”

Seattle Times

“Christopher Murray... details the collapse of a decades-old prison culture at Walla Walla and the rise of well-meaning but naive ideas that set in motion spiraling chaos. Over several decades, Murray interviewed people involved with the prison at all levels, from inmates and staff to superintendents and governors, combining their accounts with newsstories from the era to tell the gripping inside story.”


“This compelling book details the bizarre story of the Washington State Penitentiary's disastrous efforts at reform in the seventies. Yes, the inmates ruled the roost until a descent into total deadly chaos moved things back in the other direction.”

Foreward Reviews

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University Press Audiobooks
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University Press Audiobooks