Born, Not Raised: Voices from Juvenile Hall

Susan Madden Lankford. Humane Exposures (humaneexposures.com), $18.95 trade paper (242p) ISBN 978-0-9792366-3-1
In this candid arrangement of text, interviews, photographs, and hand-written responses, photojournalist Lankford completes her award-winning trilogy (Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time and downTown U.S.A.: A Personal Journey with the Homeless) exploring America’s marginalized denizens, here revealing the chilling emotional landscape of children housed at San Diego’s Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility—temporary home to 5,000 juvenile criminals. Lankford and her daughter, Polly, visit “the Hall” over a one-year period, refracting their discoveries though the lenses of juvenile legal professionals, psychiatrists, and academic literature. Their quest unearths a collective legacy of addiction and abuse that drives children to drugs, gangs, and violence. Disputing the notion that delinquents are beyond repair, Lankford argues that most inmates can transform their traumatic histories into productive maturity if sustained by just one “good enough” adult. Questionnaires and interpretations of artwork, published in the inmates’ raw penmanship, convey nuanced perspectives of dreary inevitability, level-headed insightfulness, and hope. Lankford’s earnestness is on display in her humanizing conversations with a handful of girls, including the game-talking yet vulnerable Hui and the unguarded Sands. Lankford delivers a compassionate—if occasionally repetitive—call to action, providing practical recommendations for assimilating at-risk minors before they become adult criminals. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/02/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
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