From School Library Journal
Bernstein outlines the history of juvenile "reform" schools, the rise and fall of the rehabilitative model, and the reality of what happens behind bars to already traumatized teens: further physical, sexual, and mental abuse. The author takes a look at solitary confinement practices, "therapeutic prisons," and juvenile reentry. Using solid teen developmental theory and research, United Nations findings, and trauma-informed care, this title articulately sets forth the argument against the imprisonment of children. A passionate advocate for young people, Bernstein highlights teen voices and experiences throughout the book, adding humanity and insight to the statistics. Burning Down the House brings this issue to national attention. Readers meet influential adults such as Jerome Miller, who closed down the entire system in Massachusetts in the '70s, and Gladys Carrion, Chief Commissioner of New York, who not only closed down 18 state facilities by 2012 and halved the number of incarcerated kids, but also diverted $74 million to support community-based alternatives to incarceration. Teens interested in history, social sciences, and one of the biggest issues facing young adults in the U.S. will find lots to love in this book.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA
Praise for Burning Down the House:
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"Passionate, thoughtful, and well-researched, this is a resounding call to action."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Passionate and convincing."
"Burning Down the House by Nell Bernstein reveals a shocking truth: what adults do to children behind the walls of America's juvenile prisons is criminal. If we want to change the United States' senseless addiction to incarceration, the best possible place to start is transforming how our justice system treats our children. This book shows just how that can be done."
Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black
"Engrossing, disturbing, at times heartbreaking, Burning Down the House offers a seed of hope: a future where all children are valued and free. Told in the voices of children kept in cages, this book should fuel the growing movement to curb America's uniquely excessive reliance on juvenile incarceration."
Van Jones, author of Rebuild the Dream
"In the haunting voices of children shut away in nightmarish facilities, their lives defined by abuse and brutality, Nell Bernstein brings to light the betrayal of the juvenile court's promise of 'rehabilitation.' With her empathetic ear, sharp, impassioned prose, and deft use of compelling evidence, Nell Bernstein is the ideal messenger for the many thousands of children who will go to sleep tonight on a concrete bunk in an empty cell, convinced that there is no place for them in the world.
Ayelet Waldman, editor of Inside This Place, Not of It
"Drawing on well-documented history, compelling research, and her strong sense of justice, Nell Bernstein asks a provocative question: why do we have juvenile prisons? Seizing the momentum of the sharp decline in imprisoned youth, this smart and humane book makes a persuasive case that the time for tinkering has passed. Bernstein leads the reader to ask a heretical question: are we witnessing the beginning of the end?"
Jeremy Travis, president, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
"A riveting must-read for anyone on the 'outside' with influence to send kids to the 'inside' of juvenile prisons. This exposé of the anguish, pain, and suffering of kids we place inside the razor wires, all for a false sense of public safety, should provoke in all of us to carry the torch to 'Burn Down the House.'
Judge Steven C. Teske, chief judge, Clayton County Juvenile Court, and author of Reform Juvenile Justice Now
Praise for Nell Bernstein:
"The White House honors [Nell Bernstein] for [her] dedication to the well-being of children of incarcerated parents."
The White House Champions of Change
Praise for All Alone in the World, Bernstein's previous book:
"An urgent invitation to care for all children as our own."
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family
"Powerful. . . . Highly recommended."
"[A] moving condemnation of the U.S. penal system and its effect on families."
Meticulously reported and sensitively written."
"Brimming with compelling case studies . . . and recommendations for change."
"Serious, moving, and well organized . . . this book could help galvanize a national will to tackle such problems."
Library Journal (starred review)
"Bernstein's book pumps up awareness of the problems [and] provides a checklist for what needs to be done."
"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."
San Francisco Chronicle