Mark Cook was born and raised in Seattle, growing up in a poor family and moving frequently from school to school. At the age of 17, he was arrested, sent to a state mental hospital, and subsequently abused by the facility staff. Later, he served a sentence for armed robbery.
Released in 1967, Cook became active in a growing leftist paramilitary underground in Seattle, which perpetrated a series of high profile bombings and robberies. In and out of prison, he was co-founder of the Black Panther Party chapter in the Walla Walla State Penitentiary and served as its Lieutenant of Information for many years. In 2000, he was released after serving 24 years in prison for his participation in a bank robbery and jail break associated with the George Jackson Brigade in Seattle. His interview provides a detailed and startlingly honest account of the social organization and violence of prison life, as well as his extensive efforts to improve the conditions for prisoners.
Mark Cook discussed his experiences in a videotaped interview conducted by Janet Jones on May 27, 2005. To the right are streaming-video excerpts, most about a minute in length.