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.
With the current statistic that one in three school children in theU.S. will be arrested by the age of 23, the reality that young children are being placed in an environment that includes predatoryguards, solitary confinement, and the possibility of becoming mentally disabled by PTSD, Bernstein presents the story of underageconvicts in their own words. She introduces Curtis whose saga began at the age 10, when he was placed in the California Youth Authoritycheek to jowl with grown men. She examines a country that spends more on incarceration than it does on education. While juvenile courtwas founded at the end of the nineteenth century with a goal of rehabilitation rather than punishment, it morphed over time intoimprisonment, bringing with it criminality as “hurt people hurt people”. Speaking of this this opposite result, Bernstein quotes onescholar: “A century of experience with training schools and youth prisons demonstrates that they constitute the one extensivelyevaluated and clearly ineffective method to treat delinquents.” She spotlights the human relationship as the context in whichrehabilitation blossoms: “The kids that ‘make it’ all point to at least one consistent relationship with an adult they can trust.”Fifteen chapters are divided into two parts: teenage wasteland; burning down the house. There is author’s note, prelude: the time is at hand, and notes.Annotation ©2014 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
"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
When teenagers scuffle during a basketball game, they are typically benched. But when Will got into it on the court, he and his rival were sprayed in the face at close range by 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 how to rehabilitate young offenders. In a clear-eyed indictment of the juvenile justice system run amok, award-winning 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 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.
Burning Down the House is a clarion call to shut down our nation s brutal and counterproductive juvenile prisons and bring our children home.
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.