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After the Madness:: A Judge's Own Prison Memoir Hardcover – March 25, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In November of 1992, New York's Chief Judge Sol Wachtler, an heir aparent to the governor's mansion, was arrested. He was charged and convicted for a humiliating crime stemming from his manic, obsessive harassment of his former mistress. A prominent New York socialite, the woman happened to be pals with the director of the FBI. Recorded conversations of the judge's threatening phone calls made for an open and shut case and sent the judge to federal prison for a 15-month stint. In After the Madness, the fallen jurist has created a confessional diary that chronicles his prison term. Stories of inmates are interspliced with prison reform recommendations and brief reflections on his crime. He also describes his "illness" and eventual diagnosis as manic-depressive, his incredible appetite (and ability!) to "self- medicate" at the rate of 5,000 pills in an 18-month period while serving on the bench, and the path he has taken to rebuild his name and career. The degree of hubris and the catastrophic fall give this story a classical dimension; the emphasis on psychiatry and self-esteem mark it as a product of our times.

From School Library Journal

YA. A very readable memoir by the former Chief Judge of New York, Wachtler's story is valuable for its points of view, for the author was a man of enormous power and potential, with a loving wife and family. His dark side, however, unalterably determined the course of his life. Within months of his appointment, Wachtler began an affair with Joy Silverman, the stepdaughter of his wife's uncle. It continued until he succumbed to depression and ended it. Using his prestige, he was able to convince various doctors to prescribe amphetamines, antidepressants, and hypnotics in large amounts, which provoked the development of a severe manic-depressive disorder. In the throes of mental illness, he harassed and threatened Silverman in an attempt to get her back. In November 1992, he was arrested and charged with extortion. A year later, in his mid '60s, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison and 2 years of supervised release. Written as a diary of his prison time, the book contains stories of fellow prisoners, reflections on his situation, and an analysis of the current state of the penal system. It's an interesting, and rare, discussion of both sides of the fence?a convicted felon who can speak as both guilty party and judge. Having lived through being strip-searched, confined to the "hole," and stabbed, Wachtler can definitively speak about prison life. His opinions of his failings, his actions, and the corrections needed in the prison system could lead to lively moral and ethical discussions.?Carol DeAngelo, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (March 25, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679456538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679456537
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,905,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By W. Christeson on May 5, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I write this as a middle-aged attorney disabled for the past three years by depression. Wachtler is clearly a man of great courage, both with regard to his imprisonment and his disease. His comments about our legal and penal systems are quite good, and his recommendations should be taken seriously. The most intriguing aspect of the book, however, is the picture it presents of a manic-depressive and post-traumatic man who is still living very close to the time of his breakdown and who is not by any means cured or stabilized. Judge Wachtler presents, unintentionally I assume, a first-hand picture of a man still at the mercy of manic-depression and post-traumatic stress, who has not yet come to grips with what his condition is or what it has caused him to do. He continues to live in a world where all of his psychiatrists are the most eminent in their fields, his visitors and friends are Governors, Supreme Court Justices, and famous law professors. The unintended result of his story is to show a man still obsessed with his own importance and grandiosity and his pathetic efforts to hang on to what he once was. He offers endless rationalizations for what he did, even while he denies that he is trying to excuse what he did. There us always someone or some thing which is a significantly contributing cause to what happened. He appears as a man who has not yet submitted to the kind of utter surrender to his condition and to his most basic self which will be necessary for him to understand his disease and face it. Psychiatrists, as I understand it, would say that Judge Wachtler is in denial, at least in some very important respects. I know; I have been mired in self-righteous denial for some time now, and I still am.Read more ›
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "juli3" on January 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book should be read by every person involved in sentencing people (they are people) to our prisons, both federal and state. Senators and Representatives, both federal and state; probation officers, judges, the police, etc. The book illustrates how mental illness is still not put in the same category as physical illness. There is no sympathy, understanding, or compassion for one who is mentally ill. Judge Wachtler was severely punished for his crime of harassment. Harsh punishments for non-violent crimes should be reconsidered. Drug/alcohol addiction is an illness and should be treated as such by our criminal justice system. Prison is dehumanizing, especially for the non-violent offender. I would like to see Judge Wachtler try to effect the changes within our system that he talks about in his book.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By David H. Birley VINE VOICE on December 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The combination of the brilliant and insightful mind of the former Chief Judge of New York State (and frontrunner for possible Governor), and his brutal dehumanizing experience in Federal Prison makes this book a "must read" for anyone who is concerned about this country's current "criminal justice" system. The opportunities that he made the most of to get to know people who were serving long terms for first offences, his insights into how the current sentencing guidelines have taken away the opportunity for judges to judge, and passed that authority over to the prosecutors is eye-opening.
At the last, I was left with a helpless feeling for the total failure of the much vaunted "fairness" of our legal system. A realization that perhaps the greatest punishment isn't the incarceration, but the stripping of a person's personality, and opportunity to be a "normal part of society" upon release.
Please read it, think about it, and ask yourself "Is there anything I can do to change this system?"
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book provides an excellent look at the justice system from both sides. The former chief judge for the highest court in New York spent time in federal prisons, and in this book, he shares his experiences and the lessons he learned. This is a great book for anyone interested in the legal system, because it gives Wachtler's inside views and opinions from the aspect of both a judge and a former prisoner.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John A. Johnson on March 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Judge Wachtler writes with passion about the life he had and the life he has. Beginning with a brief story of his professional standing and his illness that led to his downfall. Mostly he writes about what he experienced when he committed a crime and was apprehended and imprisoned for it. He describes his life in two prisons where he became intimate friends with convicted fellons of many hues while receiving visitis from family, friends, and former colleagues. He also describes his release and subsequent realization that he could not take up where he left off - instead he had to start over, something he has done. Judge Watchler focuses attention on the injustice from law enforcement practice of entrapments or stings. He also lays bare his soul on the unfair use of sentencing guidelines that do not allow judges to choose a punishment suitable to the crime. I recommend this book to anyone interested in American Justice in the 1990's.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Blake TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
This autobiographical prison diary by Judge Sol Wachtler is the story of a justice system in need of review and restructuring. As Wachtler's story unfolds it brings to light another area of concern to our society. It is the story of the impact of the use and abuse of prescription drugs.

The book gives valuable insights into the behavior changes as a result of depression and bi-polar illnesses. Judge Wachtler has been frank and open in sharing his story and made himself vulnerable in an attempt to inform his readers of the of the injustices of our sentencing laws.

Entries in Wachtler's prison journal attest to the concern of former colleagues, family, and friends during the hardship of his incarceration.

The book is well written, informative and absorbing. It is book that should be read by everyone involved in our justice and correctional systems, country, state and federal.
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