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Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth

by John Hubner

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772274,972 (4.53)1
An account of the way one remarkable prison rehabilitates its inmates. While reporting on the juvenile court system, journalist Hubner kept hearing about a facility in Texas that ran one of the most successful treatment programs for violent young offenders in America. Now Hubner shares what he found over months of unprecedented access to the Giddings State School, home to "the worst of the worst": four hundred teenage lawbreakers convicted of crimes ranging from aggravated assault to murder. Hubner follows two of these youths--a boy and a girl--through harrowing group therapy sessions in which they, along with their fellow inmates, recount their crimes and the abuse they suffered as children. The young offenders reenact these soul-shattering moments with other group members in cathartic outpourings of suffering and anger that lead, incredibly, to genuine remorse and the beginnings of true empathy--the first steps on the long road to redemption.--From publisher description.… (more)
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Today, in the United States, thousands of children are trapped in our criminal justice system. Many of these children are not in juvenile facilities or rehabilitation centers. They are kept in cells with violent adult offenders or locked in solitary confinement meant to "protect" them from the sexual assault and violence. Since the 1980s, more than half of our states have adopted legislation which encourages the court system to try juveniles as adults. Although, for the past 20 years, violent crime has plummeted in our juvenile population, children as young as 10 have been placed in adult prisons and as young as 14 have been executed via lethal injection.
While investigating this draconian juvenile court system, James Hubner found his way to The Giddings State School. Here, Texas stores its worst juvenile offenders for an all but forgotten purpose, rehabilitation. While following the stories of two young criminals, Hubner explores the effects of abuse, drug use, neglect and, most importantly, redemption. In an era when the media is eager to label young offenders "super predators" and "sociopaths," Last Chance in Texas reminds its readers that most abusers were once abused, and a criminal justice system that acts as an abusive parent will necessarily harden the criminals it holds. Youth, whose brains are plastic, whose morality is forming, whose emotions live trapped beneath injury, can change. Abused youth who are made, with support, to face their own injury and the injury they caused can learn empathy.
I have already recommended this book to several students in my race, class and culture course. The stories of Giddings' inmates force us to look past the bloody headlines and into the lives of people born without privilege. The criminal offenders in Giddings are overwhelmingly children of color and children born into poverty. Their stories force the reader to consider how the inequality, violence and bigotry of our communities create the criminals we condemn. And as these children learn to face their pasts and empathize with their victims, Hubner re-humanizes "the worst of the worst" so that we, too, can learn to empathize with the victims of an abusive society. ( )
1 vote jcelliot | Jan 25, 2017 |
I keep thinking about this book, and what its ideas means for us. 95% of the young people who go through this program for violent offenders are labeled "sociopath," that is, incapable of empathy. In this rehab, each one tells the story of his life and the story of his crime. It seems too simple an idea to matter, but the result is that 95% are changed, released, and do not reoffend. It works: hurt people can relearn empathy. ( )
1 vote sherribrari | Aug 1, 2007 |
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An account of the way one remarkable prison rehabilitates its inmates. While reporting on the juvenile court system, journalist Hubner kept hearing about a facility in Texas that ran one of the most successful treatment programs for violent young offenders in America. Now Hubner shares what he found over months of unprecedented access to the Giddings State School, home to "the worst of the worst": four hundred teenage lawbreakers convicted of crimes ranging from aggravated assault to murder. Hubner follows two of these youths--a boy and a girl--through harrowing group therapy sessions in which they, along with their fellow inmates, recount their crimes and the abuse they suffered as children. The young offenders reenact these soul-shattering moments with other group members in cathartic outpourings of suffering and anger that lead, incredibly, to genuine remorse and the beginnings of true empathy--the first steps on the long road to redemption.--From publisher description.

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