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Burning Down the House

The End of Juvenile Prison

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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.

Customer Reviews

Burning Down the House

I haven't read this yet but if the book is anywhere near the engaging and shocking and compelling read as listening to the recent NPR interview -- I'll be sad but also far smarter on this subject…I believe that our country has far too many people incarcerated -- it's become a big BUSINESS to too many communities instead of an institution to punish the really hardened criminals and/or help those who are astray.

America: Read This Book

I tore through Nell Bernstein's astonishingly readable book despite--at first, and as I read on, because of--its deeply troubling topic, and because of the very real hope that the author conveys. As Americans, we have looked away far too long from the failure of and hideous abuses in our juvenile justice system. Yet, as Bernstein shows, decades of studies and official reports have proven that juvenile "justice" as we know it has consistently taken children who most need rehabilitation and only made them more likely to turn to crime when released. Bernstein--sparked by her early experiences as a journalist working with "at-risk" youth at a teen newspaper--tells the stories of many former and current youth inmates across a broad spectrum of detention approaches. She takes us back through America's shameful history of youth incarceration that begins with the opening of the first "House of Refuge" in New York in 1825, and on to the many forms that institutions have taken over the years, through to atrocities and child graves discovered at Florida's Dozier School for boys, which was not closed until 2011. The book rises in the second half to the most progressive approaches of today, which keep children in their communities and value positive relationships and connections as the most essential aspect to truly rehabilitating kids, reducing recidivism, and improving safety for everyone--along with spending public funds more effectively. Bernstein's passion for her topic is undeniable and irresistible--she builds her case for a movement on a remarkable compassion for all kids, and on irrefutable evidence that has been available to authorities and the public for decades, but which we repeatedly fail to act on. The book is a moving accomplishment that should be required reading for every American, so that we can finally, fully understand some of the darkest truths about our country and ourselves, and work to give at-risk kids the support they need not just after they break a law, but at every stage.

Burning Down the House
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  • $17.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Law
  • Published: Jun 03, 2014
  • Publisher: The New Press
  • Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC
  • Print Length: 256 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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