In what the San Francisco Chronicle called “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 good way to lock up a child. Making the radical argument that state-run detention centers should be abolished completely, her “passionate and convincing” (Kirkus) book points out that our system of juvenile justice flies in the face of everything we know about what motivates young people to change.
Called “a devastating read” by Truthout, Burning Down the House received a starred Publishers Weekly review and was an In These Times recommended summer read. Bernstein’s heartrending portraits of young people abused by the system intended to protect and “rehabilitate” them are interwoven with reporting on innovative programs that provide effective alternatives to putting children behind bars.
The result is a work that the Philadelphia Inquirer called “a searing indictment and a deft strike at the heart of America’s centuries-old practice of locking children away in institution”—a landmark book that has already launched a new national conversation.
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
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