Book Review: Juvenile in Justice

Posted: August 13, 2012 in Book Reviews

Ross_JuvInJusticeCover_05_06_121-1Richard Ross, a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, spent five years photographing and interviewing teens in juvenile detention centers across the United States. Juvenile in Justice allows for conditions and teens to speak for themselves.
Excerpts of his work are available on the book’s website,  and on the CBS 48 Hours/Mystery page, and you can hear Ross speak about his project in this PBS NewsHour interview.

Book can be purchased on the book’s website, Amazon.com or Brodart. It is sturdy paperback

STARRED REVIEW!  ROSS, Richard. Juvenile in Justice. photos by author. 98p. Richard Ross. photos. notes. 2012. Tr $29.95. ISBN 978-0-9855106-0-2.

Adult/High School–Award winning photographer Ross spent more than 5 years speaking with 1000 youth confined in more than 200 juvenile detention facilities in 31 states. The result is a profound and provocative visual narrative, accompanied by stark facts. Portraits are accompanied by a quote from the youth or staff or a short narrative explanation. Each young person (anonymous for legal reasons) is captured in haunting and thought provoking ways. Statistics such as “Nearly 3 of every 4 youth confined … are not in for a serious violent felony crime” or “Black youth are 9 times as likely to be sentenced to adult prisons as white youth” are presented one to a page. The ironies and contradictions inherent in the system unfold perfectly with the visuals of facilities and accompanying text. For example, “The state of California spends $224,712 annually to house a juvenile in the new “green” Oakland facility. Oakland spent $4,945 on the education of a child in the Oakland public school system” is accompanied by a sign proclaiming the use of pepper spray (not exactly “green”). Montages of themed images such as food trays, “time out” rooms, and restraining devices tell the story in a way nothing else can. Considering that over 70,000 youth spend the night in lockdown facilities across the country every night, this book is of intense interest to teens. Reluctant readers will be jostling each other to get a glimpse, drawn into the visual story, and motivated to read for a deeper understanding. The preface, forward, afterword, and notes provide additional insight and empowerment for all teen readers.–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

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