“This is an incredibly powerful book about abolition, redemption, transformation, and the power of story in the fight for justice. Andrisse reminds readers of the remarkable range of talent, intellect, skill, and strength among people locked in cages in the United States. Every student, teacher, teacher educator, community member, parent, researcher, policymaker, police, and correctional officer, interested in more deeply understanding the human condition in prisons and committed to reimagining the carceral system, should read this book. An undeniable invitation to reimagine opportunity structures for all citizenry, this book touches the heart and the mind.”
– Rich Milner, Cornelius Vanderbilt Distinguished Professor of Education, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University
“A detailed, riveting look at the author’s epic journey: from early missteps, diving into darker pursuits, going through periods of incarceration and devaluation by society, and finally emerging into an impressive life that demonstrably contributes to society. Andrisse’s words are raw, realistic, and undeniably authentic. His story is a classic tale of wrong-to-reclamation, but it is so much more meaningful in this time of awakening in social justice reform. It captures the power of positive reinforcement in the echoes of his father’s words ‘It is never too late to do good.’ It also dispels the myth that groups of people can be dismissed as irredeemable. It is rare to find a book that describes the experience of incarceration without being either sensationalistic or trite. This book challenges stereotypes and allows the reader to travel alongside the author as he lives his experiences. It shows the power of education, hard work, mentorship, and of simply being supported by those who believe in the potential of others that may have different histories.”
– Sheila R. Meiman, Raritan Valley Community College, Director of Returning & Incarcerated Student Education (RISE), Adjunct Associate Professor of Mathematics
"From Prison Cells to PhD is one of the most provocative books I’ve read. It forces us to take a hard look at the inequity baked into American life, and consider how someone as brilliant as Dr. Stan Andrisse could find himself behind bars, incarcerated for an extended period of time. The book is both a searing memoir, and a hard push to reexamine our carceral and education systems and how they intersect. The stories that Andrisse tells are vivid and compelling. Despite a glut of books about life in prison, the passages in this one where Andrisse experiences incarceration feel particularly urgent, and disturbing. His traumatic experiences with guards, and with his own suicidal thoughts bring the reader into a hell on earth that most of us are happy to avoid thinking much about. Andrisse did an enormous amount of research for this book, interviewing past acquaintances, friends and enemies to try to fully understand the path he took. Fundamentally, this is a memoir about redemption, and about the constricted choices that society gives us. Without spoiling the punchline, Andrisse ends up a successful endocrinologist, with his own non profit that helps returning citizens get an education. But to get there, he first experiences life as a drug kingpin, making exorbitant amounts of money but burning relationships with friends and family, and taking enormous personal risks along the way. Why couldn’t Andrisse have skipped the parts of his life that ended with his prison sentence and status as a an ex-convict, and instead complete a more traditional path through academia? That is the burning question throughout the book. His answer is that for Black Americans born into cities like Ferguson, St. Louis and Baltimore the pathways are constricted. The book is filled with fascinating characters from the multiple worlds that Andrisse traverses. It is extremely readable. It also provides an important meditation on the ways in which America constrains our own talent pool by mass incarceration of so many of our citizens. "
– Zeke Cohen, Baltimore City Council Member
“As the Missouri Department of Corrections continues to take a hard look at how we interact with the populations we serve, I am constantly on the lookout for success stories. From Prison Cells to PhD is an ideal example.
I met Dr. Andrisse in Washington, D.C., when we were on Capitol Hill advocating for reinstatement of Federal Pell Grants for the incarcerated. It was a rare instance when corrections leaders and formerly incarcerated individuals were supporting the same initiative. We were successful!
Stan and I have reconnected since then, and he recently brought me a copy of his book. I was eager to read it to try to better understand the mindset of the people we serve. As a former probation and parole officer and current department of corrections director, I often have wondered and still wonder: What is the lived experience of the person in front of me? What are they really thinking? How can I make a difference? Where can we improve?
The book reveals three different mindsets that surface in three different stages of the criminal justice process: being on probation, being in prison, and being on parole. Corrections professionals work to help those navigating these lived experiences to become better, changed people, but most of us don’t share these experiences and many of us struggle to relate to them. Corrections is a complex and often misunderstood or misrepresented business. The better we can understand one another, the better our communities will be.
After reading this book, I truly believe I understand the difference between being empathetic and being sympathetic. I find myself thinking, ‘I wish I knew then what I know now.’ Would it have made a difference in the type of probation and parole officer I was? I don’t know. However, for where I am today, as a corrections administrator, I completely believe, as Stan’s dad always told him, ‘it’s never too late to do good.’”
– Anne L. Precythe, Director of Corrections, Jefferson City, MO