VALLEJO, CA--(Marketwired - Aug 27, 2014) - Ralph Spinelli, a 74-year-old doctoral student at the University of California, offers an academic analysis and firsthand account of life in America's prison system, including its flaws and how they can be improved, in "Prison as Punishment," (, which published Aug. 15.

Spinelli did time in correctional facilities in Oregon and California. His drastically different experiences in each account for the large disparity in recidivism rates in the two states, he says.

"California's recidivism ranks among the highest in the U.S. -- up to 80 percent or more in some years, whereas Oregon's rate is among the lowest -- 22 percent," says Spinelli, whose book has been included as reading material at several universities.

"It should be clear that California's prison-as-punishment model, versus Oregon's rehabilitative one, needs comprehensive reform."

The punitive model holds sway in many states, he says. Politicians running for office never have a hard time when they say it's time to get tough on criminals, even nonviolent ones, he says.

Max Williams, former director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, says Spinelli's book illustrates the nation's problems within our correctional system, including "overburdened medical systems, gang violence, the difficulty of keeping offenders and staff safe and the challenge of developing and implementing programs that really assist offenders from cycling back into the system," he says.

"'Prison as Punishment' provides gritty context for the significant policy and resource decisions that lawmakers and society are facing as we address the challenges of crime, punishment and rehabilitation in the 21st century."

About Ralph Spinelli

At age 74, Ralph Spinelli is working on his Ph.D. at the University of California Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. At 61, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of San Francisco, and delivered the commencement speech during his graduation. He also earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in non-fiction writing from St. Mary's College of California. Spinelli had an illustrious career as an executive with a major hotel/casino company in Nevada, but was twice reputed to be an organized crime figure. Despite the allegations being unproven, they resulted in two prison terms, one in Oregon and one in California. His new book, "Prison as Punishment," compares the systems.

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Ginny Grimsley