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Life: Learning Instructions for Everyone…in Prison & Out

Life: Learning Instructions for Everyone…in Prison & Out

By Phillip Vance Smith IIPublisher: Bleakhouse PublishingISBN: 978-0996116299Genre: Poetry, Prison, Non-FictionPrice: 12.95
Available from: Amazon

In this debut collection, Phillip Vance Smith II shows us the profound consequences of a life-without-parole sentence. With quiet power, his poems examine trauma and inhumane treatment yet unearth hope for himself and for us all.

Phillip Vance Smith, II, is the editor of The Nash News, the longest-running prison periodical in North Carolina, and the co-editor of Compassion, a newsletter by and for incarcerated individuals. He spearheaded the placement of both publications on JSTOR, a digital library accessible to the public. His writing has been published in Logic(s), The North Carolina Law Review, Prison Journalism Project, The Humanist, Walk In Those Shoes, and elsewhere. He has appeared on the podcasts Criminal and Prison POD. He is the co-author of The Prison Resources Repurposing Act, a legislative proposal that aims to decrease prison violence and reduce recidivism by giving prisoners with life without parole sentences a second chance through stringent educational, behavioral, and vocational programming. Phillip is currently finishing his Associate of Arts degree and works as a visitation photographer at Nash Correctional Institution, where he is currently located. He has been serving life without parole in North Carolina since 2002. He can be reached at phillipvancesmith2@gmail.com. Read more of his writing at katbodrie.com/pvs2.


Prison walls isolate citizens from the life inside, so we are spared thinking about the daily realities facing the incarcerated. Smith’s marvelous poems provide rich and emotion-triggering insights about this hidden world, showing how humanity and inhumanity exist side by side in the society of captives. We are given a unique and often disturbing education about an institution – the prison – that the United States employs more than any other advanced Western society.

Francis T. Cullen--Past President, American Society of Criminology; 2022 Stockholm Prize in Criminology; Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, University of Cincinnati

No words can do justice to the experience of incarceration – particularly life and death sentences – yet somehow, Smith’s raw, devastating dispatches from one of the darkest corners of human existence manage to convey messages of hope for us all, in prison and out.

Shadd Maruna--President, American Society of Criminology;Professor of Criminology, Queen's University Belfast

LIFE is a critically important window into the realities of incarcerated life, realities I’ve seen close-up in my past work as a correctional officer and today, as an ethnographic researcher. Smith’s poems are altogether authentic, concerning, reflective, empowering, hideous, and beautiful. A deeply moving book.

TaLisa J. Carter--Assistant Professor, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology, American University