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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Nell Bernstein, Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison

Welcome Nell Bernstein (NellBernstein.com) (Twitter) and Aviva Stahl (Truthout, In a Maryland Jail, Teens Charged as Adults Face Isolation and Neglect ) (Twitter)

Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison

Nell Bernstein is a former Soros Justice Media Fellow whose first book, All Alone in the World, was a Newsweek “Book of the Week.” Her work has appeared in various outlets including Newsday, Salon, Mother Jones, the Washington Post, and others.

Bernstein’s second book, Burning Down the House, is an urgent account of why we need to abolish juvenile prisons, not merely make them more humane. In the first half of the book she outlines the history behind the rise of the juvenile prisons and the many kinds of violence kids face on the inside, from physical and sexual abuse to solitary confinement. Bernstein explains how the idea of the violent, “morally impoverished” youth super-predator is still with us today; for example, in provisions across all fifty states to try children who commit particular offenses as adults. The author also challenges readers to rethink our own notions of “other kids” by narrating the experiences of trauma and deprivation that so often precede young people breaking the law.

In the second half of the book, Bernstein rebuffs the notion that we can merely reform our system of juvenile incarceration. Rather than relying on therapeutic prisons to reform our troubled kids – or expecting consistently abusive institutions to change – we should re-imagine our approach to young offenders entirely. At the core of this idea is Bernstein’s assertion that “rehabilitation happens in the context of a relationship.” Models that are both evidence and intuition-based “share a single, simple premise: young people need a web of relationships to thrive – adults who will surround and support both them and their families in the transition from a difficult or delinquent adolescence to a stable adulthood.”

What I find especially compelling is how Bernstein connects the issue of juvenile incarceration to the other injustices at the very heart of American society.

Without the physical manifestation of otherness that the juvenile prison and its rituals provide, the broader spectrum of injustice we tolerate – the racial, economic, and educational inequities that divide our nation’s children into separate castes, belying the myth of America as a land of opportunity – would be much harder to ignore or deny.

Burning Down the House calls on us to see “juvenile offenders” for what they are – children who have made mistakes, and deserve our love and support in building the future they deserve.

Book SalonCommunity

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Nell Bernstein, Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison

Welcome Nell Bernstein (NellBernstein.com) (Twitter) and Aviva Stahl (Truthout, In a Maryland Jail, Teens Charged as Adults Face Isolation and Neglect ) (Twitter)

Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison

Nell Bernstein is a former Soros Justice Media Fellow whose first book, All Alone in the World, was a Newsweek “Book of the Week.” Her work has appeared in various outlets including Newsday, Salon, Mother Jones, the Washington Post, and others.

Bernstein’s second book, Burning Down the House, is an urgent account of why we need to abolish juvenile prisons, not merely make them more humane. In the first half of the book she outlines the history behind the rise of the juvenile prisons and the many kinds of violence kids face on the inside, from physical and sexual abuse to solitary confinement. Bernstein explains how the idea of the violent, “morally impoverished” youth super-predator is still with us today; for example, in provisions across all fifty states to try children who commit particular offenses as adults. The author also challenges readers to rethink our own notions of “other kids” by narrating the experiences of trauma and deprivation that so often precede young people breaking the law. (more…)

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