Life inside the Giddings State School, a boot camp that has a track record in converting violent offenders.
Texas is a funny place: Its prisons (and at least one former governor) make a specialty of executing the mentally retarded, but then someone within the system goes and figures out a humane, confidence-building, recidivism-defying system of dealing with its worst juvenile defenders. San Jose Mercury News editor Hubner (Somebody Else’s Children, 1997) ponders such oddities at various turns in this book about Giddings, where young people are taught the skills to respond to the normal stresses of life without resorting to violence. That’s a challenge: Almost all of those Hubner profiles are the children of poverty, with imprisoned, drug-addicted or dysfunctional parents. At Giddings, which a passerby might take for a prep school, nearly 400 offenders are made to live “in one kind of group or another, acquiring skills that were not ingrained in their families of origin”—which, after a time, makes psychologists of most of them, able to recognize when their peers are “fronting,” which is to say, faking emotions, and when they’re being honest. The set-a-thief-to-catch-a-thief approach requires the young people to own up to what they’ve done and why. And apparently it works. Critics have accused the school of coddling criminals, and the treatment program is expensive—but, counters Hubner, the real costs of educating a youngster at Giddings are in the end far lower than those of maintaining a criminal in prison, and in all events, none of the young people he tracked who have been released from the school have been rearrested.
An unsentimental account of how a criminal career can be derailed early on.