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"far from the tree"

Anne Dalke's picture

i just finished reading andrew solomon's astonishingly big book, far from the tree, and was particularly interested in a chapter about juvenile criminals that focuses a lot on Hennepin County Home School in Minnesota. one inmate complained, "they want you to think all day. I'd rather be breaking up rocks or shit." there were two other passages in that chapter that i want to share (meaning, of course, that i'd be interested in discussing them!) with you all:

"The relationship between kids in the justice system and their parents usually follows one of four tracks. The parents may abandon the child when he goes to prison, which may lead the child to feel lonely, lost, isolated, an desperate. The parents may abandon the child, which may prompt the child to take responsibility for himself or herself. The parents may remain or become deeply involved with the child, making the child feel that a bright future is possible. The parents may remain or become deeply involved with the child, reinforcing antisocil behavior by creating a permissive atmosphere of denial."

"Jail concentrates human emotions because it confiscates so many normal human actions and robs the inmate of so many ordinary decisions: what to eat, when to eat it, when to shower, and on and on. When you are not on the are compelled into reflection. In this pensive state, prisoners dwell on love and hate, on reunion and vengeance. They contemplate how to get back at whoever put them in the box; virtually all the prisoners I met blamed someone else for their incarceration, if not for their crime. They also long for the people who offer them succor....Prison defines parameters for affection that are easier for some people than the unmapped, everyday world. You come on visiting day. You stay the whole time...these obvious, concrete actions do not depend on sustaining a mood, which many people of short temper and shifting emotion find difficult. People who cannot achieve constancy from minute to minute can sometimes sustain it once a week...."