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All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated Hardcover – October 14, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1565849525 ISBN-10: 1565849523 Edition: First Edition

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Children of prisoners: who even thinks about them? Journalist Bernstein puts a face on this population with staggering statistics (2.4 million children have a parent in jail, and as many as half of all boys whose parents do time will wind up behind bars themselves) and personal stories of children like Susana, who has embraced her father only once in her life, and Carl, who told the jailhouse Santa that all he wanted for Christmas was for his mother to come home. Parents and children speak about the trauma of prison visits, the expensive phone calls that cut off without warning and the questions from children (What do you tell your friends? Are you to blame?) and parents (Would your child be better off without you?). Bernstein takes on the system as well: because of mandatory sentencing, judges must impose life imprisonment without parole, regardless of circumstances; a convicted felon, once released, has no access to student or small-business loans, public assistance or housing; a grandmother fears applying for aid because she must give up her grandchildren to the foster care system for evaluation and may never get them back. Well researched and smoothly written, Bernstein's book pumps up awareness of the problems, provides a checklist for what needs to be done and also cites organizations like the Osborne Society that provide parenting and literacy classes, counseling and support. The message is clear : taking family connections into account "holds particular promise for restoring a social fabric rent by both crime and punishment." (Oct.)
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Review

An important book —its pages at once heartbreaking and instructive. -- Robert Coles

Meticulously reported and sensitively written, Bernstein's book draws upon a decade of research and astounding personal interviews. -- Salon.com

Remarkable….Bernstein sets out to explore the crisis, which she suggests will be "the civil rights issue of the 21st century. -- San Francisco Chronicle
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New Press; First Edition edition (October 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565849523
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565849525
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Every sane society segregates criminals from the general population for the benefit of all.
thedream314
The stories are heart-felt and real, and the book then becomes a real eye opener to the injustices created by our justice system.
O. Semenova
I read this book for a graduate class at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and I also work in the field.
DMI

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Angry in Philly on November 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Its always easy to blame individuals for society's ills, it's been the American way for at least in the second half of the 20th Century.

Maybe that is not always the case. Maybe our complex country -- especially its justice system -- is a lot more nuanced. Author Bernstein offers a glimpse into some truly horrifying machinations that go on in today's America, all in the name of protecting our communities. Some 2.4 million children nationwide have a parent behind bars. That is more the entire population of Denver, Colorado and its six-county suburbs. Offering intimate portraits of a numerous kids who are affected by the mass incarceration of non-violent felons in the 90s, she then connects the dots to show that through community neglect, governmental policy and condemnation by self-righteous citizens, we are neglecting our own.

All is not bleak in Bernstein's world though, the resilience of many of the spotlighted kids is dramatic and emotional and she showcases some efforts and individuals (including cops) that are emerging to help change this social abomination. Another way to look at the problem is to ask ourselves when a huge number of our country's youngest members - more than the population of a major metro area - are affected by a horrible problem not of their making, how can this be only their burden to bear? Now is time for us to apply the precept of reaching out to and helping "the least of these brothers of mine." And "All Alone in the World" is call to action.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ari Kohn on November 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Important, compelling, and sad book about the millions of children who have parents in prisons ("A six-year-old crouches behind his bed as armed strangers ransack his home, breaking through floorboards and throwing his parents to the ground. Downstairs, two police cars wait: one for his parents, one for him...."). Nell Bernstein and Soros Foundation deserve our thanks, and these children deserve our support. Ari Kohn
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Ann Davis on October 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The solid if sad truth of what it is really like having a parent arrested and your life disrupted. Honestly and professionally told. I would recommend for teachers and school counselors because these children are in your school no matter where you are located. The more you understand the more you can quietly support the children.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Griffin on December 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The SF Chronicle says it better than I could so I am pasting part of their review below:

"Chapter by chapter, Bernstein takes us through each lamentable phase of the incarceration cycle, from arrest to sentencing, to visitations and foster care and finally re-entry. She interviews scores of experts -- police officers, criminologists, sociologists and dedicated service providers, many of them reformed offenders who would never have been released from prison had they committed their crimes today. But Bernstein...derives her best expert testimony from the families themselves, whom she treats not as victims of an unjust system but rather as experts and resources, the best available analysts of their own experience and needs.

Bernstein ... lays out 18 policy suggestions [in her conclusion]. Most of them are pure common sense -- remove financial barriers to communication (like the hiked-up fee for collect calls from jail), keep prisoners near their families so they can receive visits, and of course revisit our failed drug policies. What her suggestions have in common, besides being relatively easy (and cheap) to implement, is that they are focused on the basic premise that crime is reduced by keeping families together, not ripping them apart.

In terms of elegance, breadth and persuasiveness, "All Alone in the World" deserves to be placed alongside other classics of the genre such as Jonathan Kozol's "Savage Inequalities," Alex Kotlowitz's "There Are No Children Here" and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's "Random Family." But to praise the book's considerable literary or sociological merit seems beside the point. This book belongs not only on shelves but also in the hands of judges and lawmakers. "
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By I.M. Earnest on June 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We have failed to measure the true cost of our policy of incarcerating offenders and Nell Bernstein describes the costs that we have yet to pay. The damage done to a whole generation of young people who have grown up without their incarcerated parents are coming of age, and we need to recognize and address the problems that the punishment policy has caused.

Ms. Bernstein has introduced us to these children and the sadness that they will carry for the rest of their lives. She makes us care. She has also given us a well researched review of the system and the problems that have been created by society as well as making suggestions on how to prevent or diminish the damage that we are doing.

A must read for anyone who cares about the health of our society.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It was my honor to have read this book. Somehow she captures perfectly the trauma of a young child left in the wake of her parent's arrest and subsequent incarceration. You cannot read this book without a heavy pang in your heart for these children, but beyond that she is able to make you feel for the convicts when upon their release they are left stifled by an incredible lack of options.
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