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Mr. Smith made it to prison instead of Washington, so what did he learn there?

Aine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

After bursting onto the Missouri political scene in 2004 during a daring bid to replace retiring U.S. Congressman Dick Gephardt, Jeff Smith seemed like he could do no wrong. His grassroots political campaign to launch from unknown into the U.S. House of Representatives is considered one of the most successful in history—even though he narrowly lost to Russ Carnahan. The critically-acclaimed documentary “Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?” followed that campaign. Smith went on to become a Missouri Senator, representing parts of St. Louis. 

And then, everything changed. He pled guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice following revelations about election law violations during his 2004 campaign. He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, as well as being fined $50,000, serving that time at the Federal Correction Institution in Manchester, Kentucky. He was released in 2010.

Now, after releasing a Kindle exclusive, “Ferguson in Black and White,” earlier this summer, Smith has turned his pen toward his experience in the prison system. On Tuesday, “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh talked with Smith about his book, “Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America's Prison Crisis,” his experiences there, and what he has learned about the justice system in the United States as a whole. 

"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.