The first time Ravi Shankar was arrested, he spoke out against racist policing on National Public Radio and successfully sued the city of New York. The second time, he was incarcerated when his promotion to full professor was finalized. During his ninety-day pretrial confinement at the Hartford Correctional Center—a level 4, high-security urban jail in Connecticut—he met men who shared harrowing and heart-felt stories. The experience taught him about the persistence of structural racism, the limitations of mass media, and the pervasive traumas of twenty-first-century daily life.
Shankar’s bold and complex self-portrait—and portrait of America—challenges us to rethink our complicity in the criminal justice system and mental health policies that perpetuate inequity and harm. Correctional dives into the inner workings of his mind and heart, framing his unexpected encounters with law and order through the lenses of race, class, privilege, and his bicultural upbringing as the first and only son of South Indian immigrants. Vignettes from his early life set the scene for his spectacular fall and subsequent struggle to come to terms with his own demons. Many of them, it turns out, are also our own.
About the Author
Ravi Shankar is an award-winning author and editor of more than fifteen books and chapbooks of poetry. He is the founder of Drunken Boat, one of the world’s oldest electronic journals of the arts, and has been featured in the New York Times and on BBC, NPR, and PBS NewsHour. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his partner and their dogs, Annie and Rishi.
“A brave voyage of discovery, Correctional is a real odyssey, barely making it home after navigating treacherous cultural and psychological waters. Thanks to Shankar’s brilliant writing and admirable honesty, we relive his harrowing, but eventually inspiring, personal saga. And his deep insights into our justice system are alone worth the price of admission.”—H. Bruce Franklin, author of Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War
“Shankar is an absolutely brilliant writer; his prose, finessed from years of writing and teaching the craft of writing, is rhapsodic, punchy, profound, and discursively sound.”—Shreerekha Pillai Subramanian, University of Houston—Clear Lake
“Through deft characterizations and snippets of inmates’ vernacular, Shankar creates vibrant portraits of his jailmates that are written with tolerance, sympathy, and often affection…Shankar’s honesty and humility render him a sympathetic figure. His elegant prose is strewn with references to philosophy and poetry, helping to make his storytelling compelling—even entertaining. Correctional is the story of a beleaguered man on the road to redemption, trying to set the record straight.”—Foreword Reviews
"Elegantly wrought and emotionally transparent."—Public Libraries Online
“A story that is by turns moving, horrifying, funny, and provocative. . . . Shankar has a poet’s ear and a journalist’s eye. . . . He magics personalities, places and events onto the page with such vividness that this story compels from the first page to the last.”—Linda Jaivin, Sydney Review of Books
“A candid and often excruciating exposure not only of the protagonist’s inner workings, but those of his real-world mise-en-scène. . . . A fall is a seed for the growth of a via negativa, which only gains by losing, and Shankar’s hard-won words on the page are the telling trace of what has already been shed. We learn to see, as he does, from the reversed view granted in the falling.”—Martin Kovan, Ploughshares