Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review: unlocking minds in lockup

In Unlocking Minds in Lockup Jan Walker candidly describes her reactions to prison realities, belief in education as a door-opener for offenders and their responses to the programs she developed and taught. She gives readers an honest look at the rhythms of working inside, seeing inmates as students, and helping them prepare for reentry to society. Through the years she confronted negative attitudes and behaviors with honesty and options for even those who committed the most serious crimes to change their lives through critical thinking, open discussion in class and reaching out to their families and communities. Unlocking Minds in Lockup answers the nationwide call for criminal justice reform with an inside view of prison education making a difference. Mass incarceration led to over 2 million adults inside prison. Current cost to taxpayers is estimated at over $70 Billion dollars per year. The reader is invited to step inside adult men's and women's prison classrooms to see and hear incarcerated students work to change their attitudes, behaviors and choices. There are 2.7 million children in the US with a parent in prison and millions more with a parent under court supervision. The best way to stop the incarceration cycle in families is through educating adults inside prison now and preparing them to return to their families and communities as productive citizens.
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My Review:

Walker combines personal anecdotes with statistical facts to shed light on and suggest solutions for a problem in American prison. While I've never been in prison, I have been to an extended stay at a hospital. I was surprised at the similarities in educational supplies: the books are ancient, and any other supplies tend to mysteriously misplace themselves. I feel bad for taking the light off of prisons, but it's the only relatable experience I have. As far as the general and voting public are concerned, I recommend this to anyone who appreciates the candor of Orange is the new Black, and doesn't mind less drama and sex scenes. After speaking with the students, Walker took it upon herself to find information useful to them-things like how to arrange guardianship to help their children while they were away--a process no one had been told before. I certainly don't envy Walker's position. As teacher, she was the one closest to the students, who spent the most time with them, and was most likely to empathize. Really, she had no choice but become an advocate. This is a valuable resource, even if it isn't implemented in prisons, it would remain valuable as an addition to a prison library.

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