I REFUSE FOR THE DEVIL TO TAKE MY SOUL: INSIDE COOK COUNTY JAIL Book Review – Retribution, Rehabilitation and Mental Health Care in Chicago’s Prison System

I REFUSE FOR THE DEVIL TO TAKE MY SOUL: INSIDE COOK COUNTY JAIL by Lili Kobieleski – Flowers Bloom in a Landfill

Lili Kobieleski’s work in words and photographs is an essential archive of hope amidst the tragedy of the American criminal justice system in Cook County. Through her pen, lap top and camera Kobieleski has chronicled many of the voices and faces of inmates in the county’s jails. In cooperation with the Vera Institute of Justice and other groups, she has documented “the prevalence of mental illness among inmates at Cook County Jail in an effort to humanize the reality of mass incarceration in this country.”

Kobieleski Gives a Platform to Angels Who Refuse for the Devil to Take Their Souls

In addition to citing budgetary statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the author gives a human touch to the work by showcasing dozens of men and women in the county prison system who suffer from various afflictions of the mind as well as substance addictions. Her photographs reveal the personal side to cultural “hot button” topics while opening a path to rational dialogue about a system too often concerned with monetary costs per prisoner. The stories of each human being in jail, how they got there, what resources are accessible to them and what hope they all have are set out in honesty and brutal reality.

The author casts the stories in each person’s own words and supplies ample pictures to illustrate in word and image the challenge that each one faces, as well as what the system itself must address in terms of the inmates’ needs.

This is a work that would appeal to anyone with a passion for social justice as well as anyone with a great sense for the protection of society. The issues of “revolving door” in the American justice system, the rehabilitation of prisoners, and the welfare of law-abiding citizens are all related. Kobieleski points her camera’s lens at a key component of the solution: the necessity of solid and consistent mental health care inside and outside the prison system. She sends out a clear call for reform and budgetary reevaluation across the country while focusing positive attention on those in Cook County.

I Refuse for the Devil to Take My Soul:

Inside Cook County Jail
by Lili Kobielski
Introduction by Vera Institute of Justice

$40 To obtain a copy order through Powerhouse Books

Photos courtesy of I Refuse for the Devil to Take My Soul.

Joseph Anthony Rulli
Nathanael Filbert

Joseph Anthony Rulli is a transplanted Hoosier, living in Chicago since the fall of 2006. A 1987 graduate of the University of Notre Dame (BA, History) and a 1992 graduate of St. Meinrad School of Theology (MDiv) he taught Social Studies, Religion, Philosophy and History at the high school level. He began writing as a career upon his arrival to his second city and has had two short stories published, a stage play performed, an electronic tour book published online and The Chicago Haymarket Affair (History Press/Arcadia Publishing, 2016) his first print book, followed by Chicago Socialism: The People’s History (History Press/Arcadia Publishing, 2019).


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