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I Don't Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup
Synopses & Reviews
Since the early 1990s, thanks to inflamed rhetoric in the media about superpredators and a wave of get-tough-on-crime laws, the number of juveniles in prison has risen by 35 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and their placement in adult prison has increased by 208 percent, according to a 2007 survey by the Campaign for Youth. Since 1992, every state except Nebraska has passed laws making it easier to prosecute youth under eighteen as adults, and most states have legalized harsher sentences for juveniles.
David Chura taught high school in a New York county penitentiary for ten years and saw these young people--and the effects of our laws on them--up close. Here he introduces us to the real kids behind the hysteria: vibrant, animated kids full of humor and passion; kids who were born into families broken up and beaten down by drugs, gang violence, AIDS, poverty, and abuse. He also introduces us to wardens, correctional officers, family members, and doctors, and shows how everyone in this world is a child of disappointment.
We meet Wade, who carries a stack of photos of his HIV-positive mother in his pocket to take out and share with pride. Khalil has spent all fifteen years of his life in foster care, group homes, juvenile detention, and mental hospitals, yet has channeled his inner demons into poetry. There's Anna, a hard-nosed one-time teenage drug baroness who serves as a tutor to students and older women alike; Dominic, a father of two who only reads in jail, and only the Harry Potter books; and Eddyberto, a bright student and self-taught artist whose wildly creative drawings are confiscated and used to accuse him of being a potential terrorist and threat to national security.
Then there's O'Shay, a big, burly, snarling Bronx-Irish classroom officer with a surprising protective side for the underdog, and Ms. Wharton, a hallway officer with a spiky demeanor but a soft spot for animals.
In language that carries both the grit of the street and the expansiveness of poetry, Chura breaks down the divisions we so easily erect between us and them, the keepers and the kept--and shows how, ultimately, we as individuals and as a society have failed these young people.
Book News Annotation:
US courts send 250,000 minors to adult prisons each year. Drawing on his experience teaching juveniles in an adult county penitentiary for 10 years, Chura profiles 18 kids, some of whom have never lived in a stable single-family home situation. Despite the drugs, gang violence, AIDS, poverty, and abuse, the kids' spirits still shine through. Chura also introduces correctional officers hardened by the system, who deal with problems at home similar to the ones the young inmates have suffered. The author has worked with teenagers for 40 years. His writing has appeared in the New York Times. There is no subject index. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In language that has both the grit of the street and the expansiveness of poetry, juveniles serving time in prison tell their stories in their own words--accounts that raise questions about the treatment of young people in today's justice system.
A veteran teacher gives an “inside” view of the lives of juveniles sentenced as adults
David Chura taught high school in a New York county penitentiary for ten years—five days a week, seven hours a day. In these pages, he gives a face to a population regularly demonized and reduced to statistics by the mainstream media. Through language marked by both the grit of the street and the expansiveness of poetry, the stories of these young people break down the divisions we so easily erect between us and them, the keepers and the kept—and call into question the increasing practice of sentencing juveniles as adults.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
David Chura has worked with at-risk teenagers for forty years. His writing has appeared in the New York Times and multiple literary journals and anthologies, and he is a frequent lecturer and advisor on incarcerated youth. Visit his website Kids in the System.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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