These reflections by male inmates, recorded by a prison psychologist, are brief, sometimes only a few lines, but they offer profound insights into the realities of prison life. Some of the inmates are still bewildered that they gave up good opportunities and turned to crime; some fear that they may really like being in prison; others hope they will never return after being released, although they have not kept that vow in the past. Some come from families that abused or neglected them, and others had their every whim indulged. The vast majority are terrified at being thought homosexual, and even some who practice homosexuality, have developed rationalizations that permit them to consider themselves "straight." In his introduction, Farrell, who works at an unidentified maximum-security prison on the East Coast, discusses the inmates' insecurities about masculinity, and considers the roots and punishment of crime with compassion, but without sentimentality. The verse arrangement of the anecdotes is effective, making this a sort of prison Spoon River Anthology.