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Wrong Nell Bernstein?

Nell Bernstein

Journalist and Advocate, Journalist and Advocate

The New Press

HQ Phone:  (212) 629-8802


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The New Press

120 Wall Street Floor 31

New York City, New York,10005

United States

Company Description

The New Press, established in 1990 as a major alternative to the large, commercial publishers, is a not-for-profit publishing house operating in the public interest. The New Press aims to provide ideas and viewpoints underrepresented in the mass media and is d...more

Background Information


White House Champion

Soros Justice Media Fellow

Web References(90 Total References)

by Nell Bernstein
The New Press, 2014

Nell Bernstein, Author
The New Press [cached]

Burning Down the House Beyond Juvenile Prison | Nell Bernstein | A heartbreaking and meticulously reported indictment of our nation’s failed juvenile justice policy, by the award-winning journalist and advocate | Burning Down the House: Beyond Juvenile Prison A heartbreaking and meticulously reported indictment of our nation’s failed juvenile justice policy, by the award-winning journalist and advocate
The New Press - "Burning Down the House" by Nell Bernstein By Nell Bernstein Nell Bernstein The White House honors [Nell Bernstein] for [her] dedication to the well-being of children of incarcerated parents. But when Brian got into it on the court, he and his rival were sprayed in the face at close range by a chemical similar to Mace, denied a shower for twenty-four hours, then locked in solitary confinement for a month. One in three American schoolchildren will be arrested by the time they are twenty-three and many will spend time locked inside horrific detention centers that fly in the face of everything we know about how to rehabilitate young offenders. In a clear-eyed indictment of the juvenile justice system run amok, award-winning journalist Nell Bernstein shows that there is no right way to lock up a child. The very act of isolation denies delinquent children the thing that is most essential to their growth and rehabilitation: positive relationships with caring adults. Bernstein introduces us to youth who have suffered violence and psychological torture at the hands of the state. Too many will never recover from the experience, creating a cycle that leaves the public less safe, not more so. Bernstein presents them all as fully realized people, not victims. As they describe in their own voices their fight to maintain their humanity and protect their individuality in environments that would deny both, the young people offer a hopeful alternative to the doomed effort to reform a system that should only be dismantled. Burning Down the House is a clarion call to shut down our nation's brutal and counterproductive juvenile prisons and bring our children home. Nell Bernstein's All Alone in the World was a Newsweek "Book of the Week.

By Nell Bernstein, The New Press; 303 Pages; $25.95The consequence to American families has been devastating: In her remarkable new book, All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated, Bay Area youth advocate and journalist Nell Bernstein sets out to explore the crisis -- one which she suggests will be the civil rights issue of the 21st century."Bernstein introduces us to families struggling to stay together through imprisonment, and through the programs dedicated to trying to help them: a care facility in a prison in Oregon that allows children to spend meaningful time with their mothers in jail, a re-entry program in New York that provides family counseling and parenting classes, an organization in Kansas dedicated to helping grandparents file for financial aid when they suddenly find themselves the sole custodians of their grandchildren. 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 expertspolice 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, also a former editor of the magazine Youth Outlook (this reviewer worked in the same office as Bernstein for a year in the late 90s), 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. And what do these families need?One another.As the 15-year-old son of a drug-addicted mother explains, Using drugs, she's hurting herself.You take her away from me, now you're hurting me." But in a system that almost seems designed to separate families (one incarcerated mother calls it the great baby-snatching era), relying on the work of isolated innovators is like treating a pandemic with cough syrup.In the cost-cutting and dehumanizing world of the prison system, the last thing administrators think of is the prisoners' private lives.Visiting hours are cut, parole hearings rarely take children into account, and transfers move fathers and mothers hundreds of miles away from their children. In a particularly wrenching example, Bernstein describes a videoconference between a fourth-grader in Washington, D.C., and his father, jailed in Ohio.Like most people in poor neighborhoods, the boy is on dial-up, and as the video crashes the computer again and again, the boy gradually loses interest in his father's stuttering image.Conversation is impossible: The literal and figurative connection failure highlights a stopgap measure that, as the author writes, can best be described as better than nothing.Bernstein has ideas for something better than better than nothing," which she lays out in her concise conclusion, where she offers 18 policy suggestions. [cached]

Nell BernsteinPublisher:The New PressJournalist Nell Bernstein's book, All Alone in the World, takes a close and compassionate look at families affected by incarceration.Nell Bernstein's book, All Alone in the World, offers us valuable insight into the destructive effect this wholesale incarceration of parents is having on children, extended families, and entire communities. Bernstein effectively uses the personal stories of prisoners, their children, and their families to make real what research tells us about the toxic effects of parental incarceration on children: high rates of anxiety and attention disorders and post traumatic stress; unstable living arrangements with a variety of overstressed caregivers; struggles with school performance and school behavior; increased poverty. With 2.4 million children currently experiencing the incarceration of a parent, and more than 7 million with a parent under criminal justice supervision, the problems of this group are problems our entire society needs to address.One of the bleakest statistics in the book is that as many as fifty percent of boys who experience a parent's incarceration will wind up behind bars themselves. And because of mandatory sentencing laws, the loss of a parent can extend for years, decades, even lifetimes.In her chapter on the effect of these sentencing policies, Bernstein describes the case of a woman arrested on drug charges.A first offender, but prosecuted under a law designed to nab drug "kingpins", Danielle was given a sentence of three consecutive life terms."I didn't even think it was real at the time," her son Carl told Bernstein.Bernstein's first chapter, Arrest, starts off with 10-year-old Anthony remembering when his meth-abusing mother and her boyfriend, who also cooked and sold meth in a shed, were arrested.Police broke down the door, smashed through the floorboards of the house, broke a lot of things.He was put in the back of a police car and taken to a shelter.Bernstein also tells of what happens when kids are not present at the arrest.They may miss a lot of trauma, but they often wind up abandoned, attempting to take care of themselves and younger siblings, afraid to seek help. The moment of a parent's arrest, writes Bernstein is one "not only of unnecessary trauma but also of tremendous missed opportunity.A child whose parent is arrested is likely already a vulnerable child.Arrest, reimagined, could be an opportunity to make that vulnerable child, and her family, visible; to make a bad situation better rather than worse."This idea becomes a theme of Bernstein's analysis of what is wrong with our approach to parental incarceration and what we should do to change it.Parents faced with the loss of their children can be powerfully motivated to change, Bernstein argues, and a smart system would make the most of that.She points to the example of New Haven, Conn.'s Child Development-Community Policing Program, which was established at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s.Police in the program are trained in child development, and can call on clinicians from Yale's Child Study Center 24 hours a day, to come to the scene of an arrest and offer counseling and support. But after 13 years, only a handful of cities have followed New Haven's lead. Similarly, in her chapter on visitation, Bernstein accompanies the stories of children like Susana, who at fifteen does not remember seeing her father free, and only remembers touching him once - and whose own current residency in a juvenile detention center seems an almost inevitable result - with examples of programs that attempt to do better by children.Programs that allow physical contact, that provide parenting and child-development education, and that acknowledge that a prison sentence does not end the parental relationship. Bernstein also describes the profound racial disparity in the effects of the current tidal wave of incarceration - for example, black children are nine times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent.Read the transcript of CFK's online chat with Nell Bernstein.

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