Intimate memoir and impassioned call to arms for prison reform from a respected criminal-justice advocate.
As a rebellious kid growing up in a Jewish family on Chicago’s South Side, Schwartz was toughened by her older brothers’ roughhousing, her father’s temper and her mother’s lack of control. Barely graduating high school and avoiding arrest, she had already made it further than many of her friends. She followed her brother to Tucson, where he spiraled into depressive schizophrenia that eventually led to his suicide. Aided by co-author Boodell, Schwartz recounts these painful personal events carefully and honestly, underlining their relevance to her work with emotionally battered—and battering—criminals. She came into her own out West, where she dated women, took drama classes and in San Francisco applied to a law school that did not require a college degree. When her professor repeatedly berated a student in the front row for no good reason, Schwartz yelled out, “What the fuck is going on up there, man?” Her classmates were horrified, but the professor congratulated her; she was the first student ever to challenge his demonstration of “the power of authority, and people’s willingness to suffer injustice in silence.” Schwartz displayed the same fearless concern as a lawyer defending criminals’ right to counsel and as a program administrator at County Jail 7 in San Francisco. She and her colleagues built a jail culture based on restorative justice, which challenged inmates to take responsibility for their acts and recognized victims’ and communities’ stakes in that process. Their Resolve to Stop the Violence (RSVP) program reduced violent recidivism by 80 percent and won an Innovations in Government Award. Schwartz admits that some criminals cannot be helped, but asserts that jail time spent learning remorse makes the world safer than years of incarceration passed by stewing in anger.
Inspiring idealism refreshingly free of jargon or fluff.