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KIDS IN JAIL: A Portrait of Life Without Mercy by Jane Guttman

KIDS IN JAIL: A Portrait of Life Without Mercy

by Jane Guttman

172 pages
Compelling narrative of children in custody and quest for justice.

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Category: Social Science
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About the Book
Kids in Jail unveils the shattering stories of youth incarceration...children raging and weeping through life. Many begin life as our nation’s throwaway youth, in foster care or brutal home lives, and then graduate to the juvenile jail system, where a career in crime begins. Other children, with nurturing and devoted families, arrive through the doors of drug use, peer-influenced misbehavior, or tragic missteps during childhood.

This narrative addresses the urgent crisis of a broken and flawed justice system, both to protect children and to advance humane justice; then to foster alternatives for rehabilitation and community restoration. Kids in Jail bares the dark and desperate tales of custody for kids, and however one arrives as a reader, the account will be stirring. The passages haunt and depict a reality of lost childhoods and budding offenders, many of whom will return to live in our communities. Our intervention will hasten the decline of recidivism and provide the inclusion of these children into our communities.

Kids in Jail portrays the pain of growing up amid poverty, crime, chaotic parenting, incarcerated parents, gang life, emotional distress, adolescent turmoil, mental illness, drug addiction, and havoc. Their trials are enormous and yet many children convey promise that lies beneath the rubble of despair, rage, prayers for suicide, and, for many, illiteracy.

The book presents the plight of the cradle to prison pipeline, and seeks to stir those entrusted with guiding these youth. Far too often the ethic of retribution reigns, where rather we would expect rehabilitation and avenues for transformation. To that end, justice advocates hope that the system, broken and harmful, will have reform accelerated. It is a dismal journey for children and youth housed in the guise of justice; the punitive code endures and often rules. Their collective pain stirs our deepest concern, our deepest compassion and our deepest deeds. Kids in Jail is a devoted call for transformation and mercy.

PRAISE for Kids in Jail: A Portrait of Life Without Mercy

Kids in Jail gives voice to the experiences of thousands of young people languishing in the juvenile justice system and demands that we create a brighter future for them. To do so, we must reimagine our system to build relationships, caring and opportunities that safely pave a path to a better life.”

Nate Balis,
Director, Juvenile Justice Strategy Group
The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Jane Guttman gives voice to one of the 21st century's most marginalized populations--incarcerated children--and she does so with compassion and great insight. The result is a powerful narrative that provides a rare glimpse of what life is like on the inside for more than 70,000 kids across the United States. It is beautifully done.

Tamar R. Birckhead
Associate Professor of Law
University of North Carolina School of Law

Jane Guttman's groundbreaking work, Kids in Jail eloquently addresses the quest to ensure the human dignity and civil rights of incarcerated youth. Jane's passion to protect and inspire youth is on every page.

Elisa Gusdal
Artist, Educator, Union Organizer


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About the Author
Jane Guttman is an educator championing troubled children with her bold, compassionate spirit. Jane’s work with jailed youth blazes a trail for best practices in educational-social justice. Her belief in the merit and promise of all human beings inspires. Jane is a poet at heart and a warrior for justice.



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