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Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison

Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison

by Nell Bernstein

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The nationally acclaimed “engrossing, disturbing, at times heartbreaking” (Van Jones) book that shines a harsh light on the abusive world of juvenile prisons, by the award-winning journalist

“Nell Bernstein’s book could be for juvenile justice what Rachel Carson’s book was for the environmental movement.” —Andrew Cohen, correspondent, ABC News

When teenagers scuffle during a basketball game, they are typically benched. But when Brian got into it on the court, he and his rival were sprayed in the face at close range with a chemical similar to Mace, denied a shower for twenty-four hours, and then locked in solitary confinement for a month.

One in three American children will be arrested by the time they are twenty-three, and many will spend time locked inside horrific detention centers that defy everything we know about what motivates young people to change. In what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “an epic work of investigative journalism that lays bare our nation’s brutal and counterproductive juvenile prisons and is a clarion call to bring our children home,” Nell Bernstein eloquently argues that there is no right way to lock up a child. The very act of isolation denies children the thing that is most essential to their growth and rehabilitation: positive relationships with caring adults.

Bernstein introduces us to youth across the nation who have suffered violence and psychological torture at the hands of the state. She presents these youths all as fully realized people, not victims. As they describe in their own voices their fight to maintain their humanity and protect their individuality in environments that would deny both, these young people offer a hopeful alternative to the doomed effort to reform a system that should only be dismantled. Interwoven with these heartrending stories is reporting on innovative programs that provide effective alternatives to putting children behind bars.

A landmark book, Burning Down the House sparked a national conversation about our inhumane and ineffectual juvenile prisons, and ultimately makes the radical argument that the only path to justice is for state-run detention centers to be abolished completely.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595589668
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 06/03/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 973,780
File size: 654 KB

About the Author

Nell Bernstein is a former Soros Justice Media Fellow, a winner of a White House Champion of Change award, and the author of All Alone in the World. Her articles have appeared in Newsday, Salon, Mother Jones, and the Washington Post, among other publications. She lives outside Berkeley, California.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Prelude: The Time Is at Hand 1

Introduction 5

Part I Teenage Wasteland

1 Inside Juvenile Prison 21

2 Birth of an Abomination: The Juvenile Prison in the Nineteenth Century 38

3 Other People's Children 52

4 The Rise of the Super-Predator and the Decline of the Rehabilitative Ideal 71

5 The Fist and the Boot: Physical Abuse in Juvenile Prisons 81

6 An Open Secret: Sexual Abuse Behind Bars 103

7 The Hole: Solitary Confinement of Juveniles 129

8 "Hurt People Hurt People": Trauma and Incarceration 151

9 The Things They Carry: Juvenile Reentry 181

Part II Burning Down the House

10 A New Wave of Reform 201

11 A Better Mousetrap: The Therapeutic Prison 224

12 Only Connect: Rehabilitation Happens in the Context of Relationship 254

13 Connection in Action: Transforming Juvenile Justice 274

14 The Real Recidivism Problem: One Hundred Years of Reform and Relapse at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys 290

15 Against Reform: Beyond the Juvenile Prison 307

Acknowledgments 321

Notes 325

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