A powerful, bracing and deeply spiritual look at intensely, troubled youth, Last Chance in Texas gives a stirring account of the way one remarkable prison rehabilitates its inmates.
While reporting on the juvenile court system, journalist John Hubner kept hearing about a facility in Texas that ran the most aggressive–and one of the most successful–treatment programs for violent young offenders in America. How was it possible, he wondered, that a state like Texas, famed for its hardcore attitude toward crime and punishment, could be leading the way in the rehabilitation of violent and troubled youth?
Now Hubner shares the surprising answers he found over months of unprecedented access to the Giddings State School, home to “the worst of the worst”: four hundred teenage lawbreakers convicted of crimes ranging from aggravated assault to murder. Hubner follows two of these youths–a boy and a girl–through harrowing group therapy sessions in which they, along with their fellow inmates, recount their crimes and the abuse they suffered as children. The key moment comes when the young offenders reenact these soul-shattering moments with other group members in cathartic outpourings of suffering and anger that lead, incredibly, to genuine remorse and the beginnings of true empathy . . . the first steps on the long road to redemption.
Cutting through the political platitudes surrounding the controversial issue of juvenile justice, Hubner lays bare the complex ties between abuse and violence. By turns wrenching and uplifting, Last Chance in Texas tells a profoundly moving story about the children who grow up to inflict on others the violence that they themselves have suffered. It is a story of horror and heartbreak, yet ultimately full of hope.
It's hardly surprising that Texas, with its reputation for being big, brash and tough, would run one of the country's most aggressive programs for criminal youth. Teenagers who commit violent crimes are confined to a secure campus, but the Texas Youth Commission also provides them with an opportunity to reclaim their future. In this important book, Hubner, an editor for the San Jose Mercury News, expertly examines the big picture: the spike in juvenile crime from 1984 to 1994, and the legislative initiatives that led to the creation of the TYC. It's his ability to tie those facts to the reality of daily life at the Giddings State School through the eyes of the students, therapists, teachers and athletic coaches that gives this book its power. Hubner focuses on Elena and Ronnie, two young offenders at Giddings, as they are forced to confront and make sense of their pasts, re-enacting the most traumatic scenes of their childhoods and their crimes. Like Elena and Ronnie, nearly all the students at Giddings come from chaotic, abusive families. Hubner underscores the TYC's success in contrast to national recidivism rates for youthful offenders, which hover between 50% and 60%; a 2004 study reported that only 10% of graduates of the school's Capital Offenders group have been rearrested for a violent crime after three years on parole. Agents, Miriam Goderich and Jane Dystel. (On sale Sept. 6) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.