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Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prisonby Nell Bernstein
Synopses & Reviews
Usually, when high school age teenagers have a scuffle on the basketball court, they are benched for the game. When Brian got into it on the court, he and his rival were sprayed in the face at close range by a chemical similar to Mace. He was locked in a solitary confinement cell and denied a shower for 24 hours, while the weaponized chemical seeped in to his eyes and skin, creating permanent damage to his skin. For a month afterward, he suffered in solitary confinement, with almost no human contact at all.
The United States leads the world in imprisoning youth. Police arrest nearly two million juveniles a year, and one in three American schoolchildren will be arrested by the time they are twenty-three. In a clear-eyed indictment of the youth prison system, journalist Nell Bernstein shows that there is no right way to lock up a child. The very act of isolation denies delinquent children the thing that is most essential to their growth and rehabilitation: positive relationships with caring adults.
Bernstein introduces us to youth who have suffered horrific violence and psychological torture at the hands of the state. Too many will never recover from the experience, creating a cycle that leaves the public less safe, not more so. But Bernstein presents them 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, the young people whose voices enliven the pages of this book offer a hopeful alternative to the doomed effort to reform a system that should only be dismantled.
This book from the acclaimed author of All Alone in the World will become a clarion call to shut down our nations brutal and counter-productive juvenile prisons and bring our children home.
"Passionate, thoughtful, and well-researched, this is a resounding call to action." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Passionate and convincing." Kirkus Reviews
"Burning Down the House by Nell Bernstein reveals a shocking truth: what adults do to children behind the walls of America's juvenile prisons is criminal. If we want to change the United States' senseless addiction to incarceration, the best possible place to start is transforming how our justice system treats our children. This book shows just how that can be done." Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black
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.
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