All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated

Nell Bernstein, Author
Nell Bernstein, Author . New Press $25.95 (303p) ISBN 978-1-56584-952-5
Reviewed on: 08/15/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Paperback - 303 pages - 978-1-59558-185-3
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Children of prisoners: who even thinks about them? Journalist Bernstein puts a face on this population with staggering statistics (2.4 million children have a parent in jail, and as many as half of all boys whose parents do time will wind up behind bars themselves) and personal stories of children like Susana, who has embraced her father only once in her life, and Carl, who told the jailhouse Santa that all he wanted for Christmas was for his mother to come home. Parents and children speak about the trauma of prison visits, the expensive phone calls that cut off without warning and the questions from children (What do you tell your friends? Are you to blame?) and parents (Would your child be better off without you?). Bernstein takes on the system as well: because of mandatory sentencing, judges must impose life imprisonment without parole, regardless of circumstances; a convicted felon, once released, has no access to student or small-business loans, public assistance or housing; a grandmother fears applying for aid because she must give up her grandchildren to the foster care system for evaluation and may never get them back. Well researched and smoothly written, Bernstein's book pumps up awareness of the problems, provides a checklist for what needs to be done and also cites organizations like the Osborne Society that provide parenting and literacy classes, counseling and support. The message is clear : taking family connections into account "holds particular promise for restoring a social fabric rent by both crime and punishment." (Oct.)

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