An interesting true crime story that is most rewarding for its descriptions of small town criminal justice at the turn of the twentieth century, ratheAn interesting true crime story that is most rewarding for its descriptions of small town criminal justice at the turn of the twentieth century, rather than a mysterious whodunit. The last few chapters covering Novak's experience at Anamosa Penitentiary and his transfer to Iowa State Penitentiary (when the state decided to join the national move towards prison reform, and renamed the institution the Anamosa Reformatory, transferring its lifers to ISP) were the most useful to me, as there is very little in contemporary press about the prison experience in Iowa. Novak made his prison career as a photographer, and happens to be the creator of hundreds of glass plate negatives currently housed in a mobile home on ISP property, awaiting curation by the UI Special Collections. It provides a new perspective on the collection, knowing the full story of the man behind the camera, as well as piecing together the stories of the men in front. Would love to see a collection of these images paired with their narratives, many as compelling as the Novak case. ...more
The edition I read was the 1971 re-issue of the 1887 edition, now out of print. In doing research on the history of prison libraries, I discovered a woThe edition I read was the 1971 re-issue of the 1887 edition, now out of print. In doing research on the history of prison libraries, I discovered a woman named Eliza Farnham who was the women's warden at Sing Sing in New York in the 1840's. She was the first documented prison authority to encourage her wards to read books that weren't specifically religious in content. She had the audacity to read Charles Dickens aloud, unheard of in her day, and finally resigned her position when her methods caused too much of an uproar. She never wrote a memoir of her experiences at Sing Sing, but her assistant, Georgiana Bruce Kirby, did. In this book she devotes a chapter to her work at Sing Sing, one chapter among many of a fascinating woman devoted to social restructuring, the suffragette movement, prison reform,and abolition at a time when expressing your opinion was "unladylike." Born in 1818 in England, she emigrated to Canada employed as a nanny. For a time she lived at Brook Farm, a Unitarian commune near Boston. After Sing Sing she taught school to black children in Missouri and Ohio. When the gold rush hit, she pulled up stakes and became a nurse in California. A fascinating first-hand account of a bold life. I found this in the dark recesses of our university library, amongst aisles and aisles of more forgotten and out-of-print autobiographies. I can't wait for some free time to go back and plunder......more
This lays some very good groundwork on the issues and consequences of incarceration. It was first published in 1998, so you might think it's out of daThis lays some very good groundwork on the issues and consequences of incarceration. It was first published in 1998, so you might think it's out of date, but unfortunately, most of her information is still valid. Only the statistics are larger. Add about 20% to current incarceration rates in the US. How sad. And still all the same problems. I can't speak to the issues of international incarceration today, but no country appears to put incarceration on their lists of priorities, except maybe the Scandinavian countries. This book may appear to do too much -- covering the issues on a global scale, it would have to be 5000 pages to really cover everything, but posing American statistics against even the poorest countries of the world, well, we should be embarrassed and disgusted. What are we doing? We, as a nation, must decide if we are incapacitating and punishing, or we are rehabilitating, but it is an impossible paradox to attempt both. And if we choose incapacitation, when are we done? Until every poor and desperate person lacking access to food, shelter, education and the freedom to aspire is locked up? Does that really equal safety and security to the free? Prison reform must begin from the bottom up. Prison reform is really social reform, and we're way past a rational starting point. The longer we sit and fret about it, the more impossible it is to solve....more
From now on, if you ask me why I'm interested in prison reform, I don't have to say anything. I can just hand you this book. I probably will say sometFrom now on, if you ask me why I'm interested in prison reform, I don't have to say anything. I can just hand you this book. I probably will say something, though. And I hope this book makes you say something, too. ...more
Informative, definitive, and authored by major leaders of the movement. A great concept that is nearly impossible to implement in any way other than aInformative, definitive, and authored by major leaders of the movement. A great concept that is nearly impossible to implement in any way other than a grassroots accessory in post-release non-profit outreach services. The current criminal justice system is just too large, too ensconced in tradition and fundamental to too large a protected class of professionals that, short of a Congressional overhaul (yeah, right) this remains an unrealized pipedream. Why is it we must wait for the world to crumble before we can build it back up? The prison pipeline is rusted and tainting the water, but until it blows, we let it be. ...more
Through the first fifty pages, I thought I understood what the book wanted to do, but then the rug was slowly pulled out from beneath me, and the lastThrough the first fifty pages, I thought I understood what the book wanted to do, but then the rug was slowly pulled out from beneath me, and the last half of the book was a whirlpool of nightmare images, recurring metaphors that scratched me every time they whipped by. This book is not about plot, it is about emotion, with all of its contradictions and confusions. Nobody acts from any one reason -- we have uncountable reasons for doing (or not doing) what we do, from combing our hair to rape, to murder, we do it for a thousand reasons, and none at all. Megan Sweeney, author of Reading is my window : books and the art of reading in women's prisons, used this book as one of her titles in a women's prison book group as she investigated how women prisoners use victimization narratives to construct their own healing. She reports that women were split on responses towards how Eva refused to speak in her own defense. Is she empowered by choosing silence, or has she been silenced, and therefore remains a victim? After my read, I still can't answer that question......more
Powerful. Only takes an hour to read, but if you're looking for a new career path, this may decide it for you. I may not know how to keep kids out ifPowerful. Only takes an hour to read, but if you're looking for a new career path, this may decide it for you. I may not know how to keep kids out if these institutions, but I've got a better idea than the federal government on how to keep them from returning. Any thinking person does. So why do we allow this to continue? We have to change the prison economy if we want to change the prison system.
"Research shows that youth confined for longer periods of correctional confinement are no less likely to reoffend than youth confined for shorter periods."
"On any given day, approximately 70,000 young people are in juvenile detention or correctional facilities each night."
"The cost for a typical stay in a juvenile detention facility is $66,000 to $88,000 to incarcerate a young person for 9 to 12 months."
"The state of California spends $224,712 annually to house a juvenile in the new "green" Oakland facility. Oakland spent $4,945 on the education of a child in the Oakland public school system."
"Except in cases where juvenile offenders pose a clear and present danger to society, removing troubled young people from their homes is expensive and often unnecessary -- with results no better (and often far worse) on average than community-based supervision and treatment."
Pair this text with Ross' powerful photos, images of our American youth traumatized and abused by our correctional system, the system we pay for, and you'll gain an understanding of the infinite downward spiral of America's most vulnerable populations. This is your problem just as much as it is theirs; the difference is that your voice might be heard....more
My son liked this book, mostly because he liked reading it as movie script. It is a visual story and works well in this format. I liked it because itMy son liked this book, mostly because he liked reading it as movie script. It is a visual story and works well in this format. I liked it because it is a young readers' title with an unreliable narrator. Most youth books don't take this risk, and it gives the reader a little more trust and responsibility in figuring what is really going on. Still, the story seemed simplified, both to fit the movie script format and also possibly not to overwhelm the reader. This would be a good title for a young reluctant urban reader. There are some issues that could lead to some very good group discussion, mostly dealing with truth vs survival, and anticipating our narrator's future. ...more
I thought I was taking a break from my prison binge, reading this pick for my prison book group. An offender told me this was a book every American ciI thought I was taking a break from my prison binge, reading this pick for my prison book group. An offender told me this was a book every American citizen should be required to read. I thought he might have been a bit hyperbolic. But he was absolutely right. Not only is this an important book, it is the most powerful of all my prison reading in establishing the huge dysfunction of the American penal system. You may have an opinion about Dave Eggers, or his publishing company, McSweeney's. You might like them, you might not. It doesn't matter. This book is of its own. Eggers is, above all his other hats, a journalist, and this is his accounting of one family who suffered extraordinarily during the flooding of New Orleans. You may think you don't want to read another account of extraordinary tragedy, it's too recent, it's too old, you already saw it all on tv. I assure you, you did not see this. You should have, but you didn't. You need to know why you didn't see this on tv, and you need to know that, if Katrina happened again, again you wouldn't be told the whole story. You need to know that the atrocities we blame and also passively accept of overseas camps like Guantanamo happen here, too, in our own swamped backyard. They happen to people we know, innocent people, regular Americans doing regular things, like helping when they hear a call for help, like feeding hungry pets and sharing their tents, their food, their boat, with anyone who asks. When crisis comes, the governing arm is the first to crumble. I'm sounding too preachy so I'm going to stop writing. I can't help but feel enraged from this, as I was warned I would. The most searing thing is that, when I read about a tragedy, I like to console myself by thinking that it's all in the past and over now. Things are better now. But I can't think that here. It's not over. It will happen again. And what are we doing, just sitting here, reading a book?!...more
The author claims that this is an anthology of student writing, but it is really her own writing and reflection with short bits by students. She endsThe author claims that this is an anthology of student writing, but it is really her own writing and reflection with short bits by students. She ends with a "strategy" for reaching and teaching at-risk kids, but it pretty much boils down to --let them write what they know. Nothing she suggests is wrong, it's just not very profound or rigorous. Her case studies are interesting, but so short, it's hard to take much from them. And her own reflections lean a bit to the flowery. Nonetheless, the aim is good, and I've no doubt she's a good teacher, and I wish all teachers had her sensitivity and compassion. It's good to be reminded of the struggles some children face, and what strong teachers can do to reach them. ...more