Profit and Punishment: How America Criminalizes the Poor in the Name of Justice Audiobook, by Tony Messenger Play Audiobook Sample

Profit and Punishment: How America Criminalizes the Poor in the Name of Justice Audiobook

Profit and Punishment: How America Criminalizes the Poor in the Name of Justice Audiobook, by Tony Messenger Play Audiobook Sample
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Read By: Karen Chilton Publisher: Macmillan Audio Listen Time: at 1.0x Speed 5.50 hours at 1.5x Speed 4.13 hours at 2.0x Speed Release Date: December 2021 Format: Unabridged Audiobook ISBN: 9781250821744

Quick Stats About this Audiobook

Total Audiobook Chapters:


Longest Chapter Length:

54:58 minutes

Shortest Chapter Length:

36 seconds

Average Chapter Length:

31:08 minutes

Audiobooks by this Author:


Publisher Description

In Profit and Punishment, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist exposes the tragedy of modern-day debtors prisons, and how they destroy the lives of poor Americans swept up in a system designed to penalize the most impoverished. “Intimate, raw, and utterly scathing” — Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Blood in the Water “Crucial evidence that the justice system is broken and has to be fixed. Please read this book.” —James Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author As a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tony Messenger has spent years in county and municipal courthouses documenting how poor Americans are convicted of minor crimes and then saddled with exorbitant fines and fees. If they are unable to pay, they are often sent to prison, where they are then charged a pay-to-stay bill, in a cycle that soon creates a mountain of debt that can take years to pay off. These insidious penalties are used to raise money for broken local and state budgets, often overseen by for-profit companies, and it is one of the central issues of the criminal justice reform movement. In the tradition of Evicted and The New Jim Crow, Messenger has written a call to arms, shining a light on a two-tiered system invisible to most Americans. He introduces readers to three single mothers caught up in this system: living in poverty in Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, whose lives are upended when minor offenses become monumental financial and personal catastrophes. As these women struggle to clear their debt and move on with their lives, readers meet the dogged civil rights advocates and lawmakers fighting by their side to create a more equitable and fair court of justice. In this remarkable feat of reporting, Tony Messenger exposes injustice that is agonizing and infuriating in its mundane cruelty, as he champions the rights and dignity of some of the most vulnerable Americans. A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press.

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“The excellent Karen Chilton is fairly low-key in her narration of this Pulitzer Prize–winner’s audiobook. Her approach is appropriate because listeners likely won’t need much help in sparking a strong reaction…Chilton is subtle but engrossing. She does an excellent job portraying the people quoted directly and keeps the narrative moving without getting in its way. Much of this audiobook focuses on Missouri, but courts that use poor defendants as ATM machines are common across the country. This audiobook is a great exploration of the issue.”

— AudioFile 


  • “Once in a while there is a voice calling out in the wilderness to draw attention to a particular social injustice…Profit and Punishment epitomizes that voice.”

    — Washington Post
  • “The billowing corruption Messenger describes in Profit and Punishment feels like Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, and the comically swollen state bureaucracies he portrays are reminiscent of Catch 22…A must-read.”

    — St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • “Crucial evidence that the justice system is broken and has to be fixed. Please read this book.”

    — James Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author
  • “Intimate, raw, and utterly scathing.”

    — Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author


  • An Amazon Editor’s Top Pick

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About Tony Messenger

Tony Messenger is the metro columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In 2019, he won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his series of columns on debtors' prisons in Missouri. In 2016, he was awarded a Missouri Honor Medal, the highest award bestowed by the University of Missouri's School of Journalism. That same year he won a National Headliner for editorial writing. In 2015, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his series of editorials on Ferguson, Missouri, and won the Sigma Delta Chi award for best editorials of the year, given by the Society of Professional Journalists. Profit and Punishment is his first book.

About Karen Chilton

Karen Chilton is a New York–based actor and writer and an accomplished voice-over artist and narrator. She has narrated dozens of audiobooks, won three AudioFile Earphones Awards, and in 2020 won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Nonfiction Narration. Her voice can be heard on numerous national network television, radio, and Internet advertising campaigns.