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Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  323 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
A powerful, bracing and deeply spiritual look at intensely, troubled youth, Last Chance in Texas gives a stirring account of the way one remarkable prison rehabilitates its inmates.

While reporting on the juvenile court system, journalist John Hubner kept hearing about a facility in Texas that ran the most aggressive–and one of the most successful–treatment programs for vio
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 6th 2005 by Random House
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(showing 1-30 of 686)
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Jan 31, 2009 Uma rated it it was amazing
It took me awhile to finish this book, because just when I became completely immersed in it, I left it on a bus in Canada. Despite how much I was enjoying it, I refused to re-buy it, spent a couple weeks waiting for it to arrive from the NYPL and then started reading other things. But I finally read the last 50 pages this morning.

The book is well written. I found the re-tellings of the students crime stories and the psychological analysis of the individual students most interesting, but the aut
Rachael Sherwood
Oct 30, 2011 Rachael Sherwood rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
Incredibly powerful book that tells the story of the most progressive juvenile rehabilitation center in the US. And yes, it's in Texas. Shocking, right?

Giddings State School is where the worst of the worst of juvenile offenders are sent. Murderers, rapists, entrenched gang leaders...people who are "beyond help." And they help them. Their philosophy lies in the basic concept that these teenagers have, as a protective mechanism, lost the ability to empathize. Through intensive therapy and group wo
Aug 27, 2008 Jan rated it it was amazing
An incredibly interesting book, especially if, like me, you work with youth in trouble. This book introduces its readers to children in pain, who have in turn inflicted pain on others. Remarkably, it offers a path to healing that pain of all involved.
May 29, 2013 Cherise rated it liked it
Really intriguing insight into the alternative forward thinking ways another country is rehabilitating these young offenders. Really hoping that more amazing statistics can be reported and proven that influences the way other countries can utilize this model, rather than focusing on solely the punitive component of treating at offender.

I enjoyed reading about the lives of these youths and even though the disparity of the crimes committed didn't marry up with the major crimes committed in Austra
May 07, 2008 Donna rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
This book is truly, truly amazing. The kids in this book have done horrible things...rape, murder, attempted murder, etc. So much of our societal culture just screams "lock them up and throw away the key". And then you read this book. The pain, loss, abuse, and trauma these kids absorbed during their formative years will just tear you heart up. Most of them learned through years and years of teaching that you can't trust anyone, that everyone you care about will hurt you or leave you, and that y ...more
I would give this book 5 stars, but because I couldn't read it at night or after I ate, it got 4.5, rounded down. This book was assigned in my Psych of Law class. Yesterday John Hubner actually came to our class to talk about the book and his experiences. The stories he told were just as horrifying (or even more) than the stories in the book. This book is incredible. Your jaw will drop, you will gasp, and you will cry. These kids have been through some of the worst experiences you can even imagi ...more
Engaging, enraging, heartbreaking, inspiring.

The book is worthy of five stars, but I just can't shake the feeling that it's incomplete. I could be wrong (it does happen), but through the last 2/3 of the book I often found myself thinking that it had been edited with a heavy hand.

The premise of the book, that violent youthful offenders can and should be cared for and not warehoused with adult criminals, might strike some as a load of touchy/feely crap. I challenge you to read Last Chance and ho
Sep 20, 2014 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Going to be brief in my review because I have to write a paper on this, but Last Chance in Texas tells the story of the Capital Offenders Group at Giddings State School, part of the system of Texas Youth Detention Centers. Giddings houses a large majority of the most violent youth offenders in Texas, but it offers them a second chance as part of Texas's blended/determinate sentencing. If they can complete the treatment and resocialization programs successfully, they may be eligible for parole. I ...more
Feb 28, 2015 Brianna rated it really liked it
Shelves: 10th-grade-books
I found this book very interesting, heart breaking, engaging and informative. I usually do not read non-fiction books, since i like to keep my head in the clouds, but this book really had an impact on me, it opened my eyes to what can really happen in some homes and what that does to kids. I think I really felt for these kids not only because their situations were terrible, but because they were also around my age. By realizing this, I could almost picture myself in their shoes but not really si ...more
Sep 09, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it
Not an easy read, but certainly worth it. Redemptive.
Gwen Burrow
Jan 13, 2010 Gwen Burrow rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
The justice system is a mess. And the juvenile justice system is even messier. But this book shows something that is finally working: Giddings State School, a tough rehabilitation facility in Texas that takes the worst juvenile offenders--kidnappers, murderers, rapists-- and turns nearly all of them into solid citizens leading clean lives. How?

First, no excuses. The kids aren't allowed to blame anyone else for their crimes.

Second, no secrets. The kids tell their stories over and over until eve
Apr 09, 2012 Lark rated it liked it
An important book. I would have liked to have seen more statistics re: recidivism. Hubner says recidivism is low, but these are, for the most part, violent criminals. A "little bit" of recidivism is still concerning. The book excels when it explains exactly how the program keeps young offenders from ending up in what often turns out to be a long string of adult lock-up facilities. Corrections programs that can accomplish that are worth studying and emulating.

Perhaps it was not the author's inten
Amy Holliday
May 14, 2008 Amy Holliday rated it it was amazing
This book does an excellent job of detailing the lives and stories of a cohort of criminals that are going through a youth rehabilitation center in Texas. Most of the concentration is on the life stories of the teenagers, and the processes they are involved in at the center to become rehabilitated. However, this book also presents lost of factual information and research about the criminal justices system in particular, and its history of dealing with juvenile offenders. The youth who get senten ...more
Gabrielle Prendergast
Sep 10, 2012 Gabrielle Prendergast rated it really liked it
LAST CHANCE IN TEXAS by John Hubner offers some hope. This book details a groundbreaking program in a Texas Juvenile Detention center which is literally a last chance for juvenile offenders to avoid long prison sentences in adult jails. Hubner profiles two inmates (they are called “students”), a boy and a girl at the Giddings School. The bulk of the book is made up of harrowing detailed accounts of the group therapy these kids must complete to graduate from the program and be eligible for parole ...more
Jul 22, 2013 Erikka rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 6-1-12-to-6-1-13
From the State School superintendent to the kitchen employees, staff refer to them as "the students," "the boys," "the girls," or, most often, "the kids," with all the love, annoyance, anger and exhaustion the word "kids" connotes.

At best, the cowboy myth is an expression of the idea that the strongest man is also the kindest.

Kids do hard time here. They have to face themselves..Kids who go through that do not go out and reoffend...Giddings is like a giant web where young offenders live under w
Helen Helms
Sep 08, 2015 Helen Helms rated it it was amazing
Shockingly good book. I had bought if as a requirement for my Juvenile Corrections class and started to read it on my own and was pleasantly surprised at how interesting I found it.

It points out some major flaws in the Juvenile Justice systems that are in desperate need of reform. It is a shame that other states don't adopt the use of systems similar to what is presented in this book.
Apr 14, 2016 Katie rated it really liked it
Shelves: school-books, 2016
John Hubner's Last Chance in Texas explores a stark and intense reality experienced by juvenile offenders at the Giddings State School. The institution puts these kids through rigorous therapy that forces them to accept responsibility for their actions, learn empathy for others, and turn their lives away from crime. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in the juvenile justice system.
Karen Bullock
Feb 05, 2016 Karen Bullock rated it really liked it
Powerful, moving and insightful. Having read this book, between classes & life in general, it's really frightening to know the extent of violent crime amidst teens today. Knowing that such an institution exists is both frightening that we as a society need this & also exhilarating that some effort is being made to try and correct the problem.
Stacy Stosich
Dec 10, 2010 Stacy Stosich rated it liked it
This book is certainly not for the faint of heart. It details the life experiences of felons living in a juvenile detention center. The things that have happened to these children are appalling...often more appalling than the crimes they have committed. There is much language, violence, and sexual content. Despite detailing a few inmates life stories, I felt that in some ways I didn't connect to the characters as much as I would have liked--perhaps because it's nonfiction, and I couldn't exactly ...more
Joyce Yattoni
Jun 19, 2016 Joyce Yattoni rated it really liked it
Very informative. I admit I have lived a rather sheltered life. Grew up in middle class America and had routines and a stable and predictable home life. That's why this book appealed to me as an educator. Sometimes as a teacher you don't know what students have been through at home. I couldn't dream of some of the things the "youth offenders" went through as children, some as young as 4 and 5 years old. It helps the reader understand where some of these kids have been.

Hats off to the Texas Yout
Apr 04, 2015 Beth rated it really liked it
I'm so glad that I read this book and incredibly glad that there are places and people in Texas who are interested in the redemption of our youth instead of just writing them off. The book was written ten years ago and I fervently hope that Giddings is still going strong.
Melissa Romero
This book is a must-read for those interested in working with troubled or delinquent youth as well as those interested in the rehabilitation versus incarceration debate. The book is quite graphic as the life and crime stories of the youths at the Giddings State School--home of the worst of the worst of youthful offenders-- are recounted verbatim. The author follows their therapeutic journey to find out what caused them to commit their crimes and how they can live in "The Free" without re-offendi ...more
Aug 05, 2015 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Loved this; such a fascinating story of the very intense process to rehabilitate (for real) juvenile offenders. Inspiring and depressing at the same time.
Jul 21, 2015 Madeline rated it really liked it
This book is one of those books that you pick up out of sheer curiosity and put down with a completely different outlook on the world in which you live.
Kindle Classroom Project
May 02, 2015 Kindle Classroom Project rated it really liked it
Shelves: z-kindle
This was an extremely well written book that focuses on the Gidding State School and its approach to rehabilitate young offenders. The work of the Capital Offenders Group — centering on life stories, crime stories, and role plays — is particularly impressive.
Alisha Blanchette
Jan 30, 2016 Alisha Blanchette rated it it was amazing
Three words: kids, crime, redemption. Amazing book. Changed my world view
Jun 27, 2016 Mia added it
read this book for my juvenile justice class, and I'm so glad I did. it is very powerful and makes you rethink your views on punishment towards young offenders.
Melisa Sevall
Jan 08, 2014 Melisa Sevall rated it liked it
I liked this book, but I work in corrections so I was probably motivated to finish it for that reason. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who isn't involved with the justice system in some way. The writer goes into too much detail at times throughout the book, narrating long conversations and events that probably could have been shortened with the same effect. But the program he describes is unique and interesting, making this a valuable "report" for people who have an interest in the topic.
Mar 10, 2015 Lessie rated it really liked it
I would love to read more books like this -- sensitively and carefully written about the positive efforts of kids from really difficult world experiences. I salute Texas. Never thought I'd say that.
Feb 10, 2008 Ginger rated it it was amazing
Incredible! Texas's criminal justice system gets a (deservedly) bad rap, but trying are some really interesting approaches down there and this book chronicles a trial rehabilation for juvenile capital offenders. It's fascinating, controversial program and the author does a great job of protraying the lives and emotions of the employees and the inmates at juvenile detention facility.
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“What is necessary, he explains, is an understanding that the youth are not the Other. It is being able to see your humanity reflected in them.” 2 likes
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