Adjunct Instructor Mary Looman Publishes Book on Prison Culture

Adjunct Instructor Mary Looman Publishes Book on Prison Culture

Mary D. Looman, a psychologist for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and adjunct instructor of Criminal Justice for the College of Professional and Continuing Studies, co-authored a book that will be released by the Oxford University Press this summer. In A Country Called Prison, she and John Carl propose a paradigm shift in the way that American society views mass incarceration.

Weaving together sociological and psychological principles, theories of political reform, and real-life stories from experiences working in prison and with at-risk families, Looman and Carl form a foundation of understanding to demonstrate that prison is more than an institution built of fences and policies — it is a culture. Prison continues well after incarceration, as ex-felons leave correctional facilities (and often return to impoverished neighborhoods) without money or legal identification of American citizenship. Trapped in the isolation of poverty, these legal aliens turn to illegal ways of providing for themselves – and, in consequence, are often reimprisoned.

With their book, Looman and Carl present the case that America is facing a situation that is unsustainable. We are facing an incarceration epidemic that requires a new perspective to eradicate it. A Country Called Prisonoffers concrete, feasible, economical suggestions to reform the criminal justice system as a whole, and in particular the prison system to help prisoners return to a healthier life after incarceration.

Readers interested in ordering a copy of this book can do so here.

UPDATE: In January 2016, A Country Called Prison received a prestigious CHOICE Award for Outstanding Academic Text. It has also received rave reviews and is considered an important text for the field.

“What sets this sobering, informative call to action apart from other critiques of American criminal justice is its central thesis: that the U.S. has effectively created a separate nation of ‘legal aliens’—people born within the country but disenfranchised through incarceration–within its own borders . . . this is a vital and informative read for any American citizen concerned with the present state of American justice.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Looman and Carl describe provocative reforms that could help reduce the prison population–and transform its members into productive taxpaying citizens–yet the hierarchical structure of the prison system makes it a near impossible task.”

—Library Journal

“[Looman and Carl] distill complex issues with clarity, authority, and passion… The authors interweave their narrative with numerous anecdotes, drawing from their experiences working behind the walls… The authors provide a summary of compelling proposals for reformation, strategies for achieving them, and their outcomes… Highly recommended.”


OU logo


The College of Professional and Continuing Studies is a fully accredited academic unit of the University of Oklahoma, offering 100% online, hybrid and onsite degrees for working adults and non-traditional students.