Among Murderers: Life After Prison

Sabine Heinlein, Author
Sabine Heinlein. Univ. of California, $29.95 (257p) ISBN 978-0-520-27285-9
Reviewed on: 01/14/2013
Release date: 02/01/2013
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Journalist Heinlein’s goals exceed her grasp in this well-intentioned but less-than-insightful look at the lives of three murderers after their release from prison in New York. The questions she poses at the outset are certainly worthy ones (“What is life like for those who have spent several decades in prison and are released into a world in which people and places they once knew have ceased to exist? What is it like to start over from nothing?”), but the answers she uncovers over the course of her roughly two years with the ex-cons are superficial. One of the three men she shadows, Angel Ramos—who, at the age of 18, strangled a 16-year-old girl and served 29 years for the crime—explains that he understood the rules of life behind bars, but doesn’t know how to behave in the outside world. The author’s attempts to get readers to sympathize with her protagonists fall short. Ramos feels it was necessary to kill in order “to be who I am,” and his assessment of his life offers a chilling and sobering answer to questions about the efficacy of incarceration: “If somebody would have... given me a job, I think it would have changed my life. But then again I wouldn’t be living the fantastic life I’m living now.” (Mar.)
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