25 Jan 2013

Why Ending Prison Sexual Violence Won’t Be Easy

It’s an optimistic headline: “Prison Rape: Obama’s Program to Stop It”. It leads into a comprehensive New York Review of Books article on three recently released Federal government publications.  Two of these documents examine sexual abuse in the nation’s detention centers while the other outlines the Department of Justice’s regulations

07 Sep 2012

The Harm We Do: Kids in Solitary Confinement

When most Americans hear the familiar constitutional phrase “cruel and unusual punishment” they can tell you what it means, at least to them. Hanging. Flogging. Chopping a hand off. Chain gangs. Putting juvenile offenders in solitary confinement is high on my list of “cruel and unusual punishment.” What else do

31 Jul 2012

Maybe He Was Right and I Didn’t Care about Victims?

“You don’t care about the victims. All you care about are those kids.” It was a comment I’ve heard in one form or another at book events, at juvenile justice talks I’ve given, or in response to pieces I’d written about our national policy of retribution towards troubled kids. I

09 Jul 2012

In Our Toxic Prison System, is There Room for Hope?

I didn’t expect my talk to a class of criminal justice majors at a local community college to be any different from the other workshops, presentations and classes I’d done. The students had read my book for class. I figured I’d talk about the book, about my 10 years teaching

08 May 2012

Confessions of a “Failing” Teacher

Originally posted on Beacon Broadside Like most teachers I’ve gotten some praise from my high school students over my 26 years of teaching—a lesson “wasn’t bad,” or a particular class was “sorta interesting.” I’ve even been told that I was a “pretty good teacher.” High praise coming from teenagers. But

01 Feb 2012

Keeping Locked-up Kids and Their Families Connected

Arizona’s legislature recently passed a law charging prison visitors a onetime $25 fee as a way to help close the state’s $1.6 billion budget deficit. Middle Ground Prison Reform, a prison advocacy group, challenged the law in court as a discriminatory tax, but a county judge upheld its constitutionality. Fees

22 Dec 2011

Children of Disappointment and the Season of Hope

If anyone doubts that the young people locked up in our jails are children they should spend some time in one of those prisons around holiday time. I did just that for the 10 years I taught high school students, some as young as fifteen, in an adult county jail,

13 Dec 2011

Girls and Young Women in the Prison System: A Growing Population

It was like a giant switchboard, the kind you see in 30s and 40s movies, a bevy of operators plugging in a crisscross of wires, taking calls, making connections, a cacophony of chatter. That image came to me recently as I walked into the lobby of the MassMutual Center in

10 Nov 2011

First the Good News: At-risk Kids (May) Get Some Justice

There’s been some good news in the media lately for anyone who cares about kids and justice. Federal statistics show that the number of juvenile offenders in jail has dropped by at least 25%. Along those same lines, the New York Times recently reported that New York Chief Judge Jonathan

06 Oct 2011

Changing the World One Book at a Time

She was pretty upfront about it: she didn’t want me there. “It’s not you personally,” Marge explained. “It’s the book.” Marge was the moderator, researcher, engine, really, of a local reading group. She was good at what she did, I was told, and I believed it. She was pretty thorough