An elite medical professional adjusts to his new life as a convicted sex offender.
In 2014, Pelloski (Trauma, Shame and the Power of Love, 2015), a pediatric oncologist, was convicted of “attempting to view” child pornography and sentenced to a year and a day in a minimum security federal correctional facility. When he arrived at prison, he was humiliated by his public disgrace and emotionally drained by PTSD from multiple episodes of sexual abuse during his early years. On “the other side of the looking glass,” the author met his fellow inmates, men whose experiences were often similar to his—childhood abuse that led them to become sex offenders themselves. Though they were lumped together as “chomos” (child molesters), most were “NP/NC” (nonproduction, noncontact) offenders whose crimes consisted of accessing internet sites that viciously exploited the young. As he adjusted to his new community, forming bonds of friendship with some and learning to avoid others, he developed a deep awareness of his good fortune in having family and friends who stood by him through his ordeal, helping him avoid the suicidal despair that overtook many of his fellow prisoners. After his early release into a halfway house, the author faced the even more daunting task of rebuilding his life on the outside, accepting the end of his career and his marriage, dealing with limited contact with his children, and finding a home and a job while being inescapably branded with the loathsome label of sex offender. Pelloski’s chronicle of his “Atonement and Reinvention” is unflinching and intriguing. He takes responsibility for his actions while maintaining a protective sympathy for his younger self, whose damaged innocence led him to “repeat, reenact, or re-experience his trauma” by watching the violation of children. His otherwise carefully reasoned and emotionally honest account of his experiences is occasionally marred by the use of provocative or offensive terms. He writes of a narcissistic fellow inmate that “he would probably get a hard-on from knowing that I dedicated a whole chapter to him.” In another passage, the author portrays a judge’s attitude toward high-status offenders: “He abused the trust placed in him, so let’s hammer a nail through his scrotum.” In this context, such sexual terms become grating and detract from a thoughtful and informative narrative.
An engrossing insider’s look at the effects of the correctional system on the personal growth of a low-level sex offender.