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In addition to interweaving his own story with those of individual prisoners, the author opines on a corrupt penal system that is in the hands of management that is accountable to no one. The result is that punishment, not rehabilitation, permeates the correctional system.
Posted December 30, 2008
Having been a state and federal probation officer for over thirty years, I initially rejected Dennis Burke's generous willingness to accept many of the San Quentin prisoners' minimizations and/or denials of guilt; and their claims of being victimized by "the system." For my entire career I prepared and/or reviewed sentencing reports and violation reports on criminal defendants. These focused of their social and criminal histories. Speaking solely about those I myself prepared or which preparation I supervised, I believe that (depending on the professional skill and personal dedication of the probation officer) the vast majority were quite thorough and well documented (especially in the federal system). However, many defendants, with seeming sincerity, still persisted in denial. (I had a notable murder case where the defendant was, in fact, right and "the system" had knowingly falsely accused him.) Following my initial indignation, I re-read this book and emerged impressed and rewarded. In Dennis Burke, these men received the care and devotion of a former priest who is deeply learned in the spiritual and the temporal and who selflessly sought them out to benefit both their everlasting souls and their secular intellects. For ten years he gave them knowledge of both the City of God and the City of Man. Any punishment which was to be meted out was to come from their own newly discovered remorse--not from Dennis Burke. The "bruised reed" he refused to break. The "smoking wick" he refused to quench. And so, I am left to question which of us did the better work: I, who often revealed to the sentencing judge the falsity of the defendants' claims of innocence and victimization; or Dennis Burke who worked so hard to sanctify their stories and to submit them only to the judgment of God? I was well paid for my work. I suspect that Dennis Burke will be better rewarded for his.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.