The Circumference of a Prison: Youth, Race, and the Failures of the American Justice System

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9781583334751: The Circumference of a Prison: Youth, Race, and the Failures of the American Justice System

The NAACP Image Award- winning author of A Question of Freedom examines the failures and broader repercussions of America’s broken juvenile justice system.
Over the past four decades, the prison population in America has increased by more than 500 percent, leaving more than three million people confined or under state or federal supervision. Each year, nearly 200,000 juveniles are tried, sentenced, or locked in cells with adults in America despite an abundance of research showing that young people confined in prison are as much as 34% more likely than young people held in juvenile detention centers to later reoffend.
Dwayne Betts knows the hazards of juvenile incarceration firsthand. Arrested at age sixteen, Betts served eight years in an adult prison, coming of age behind bars. Today, Betts is free and a nationally known advocate for juvenile justice and prison reform.
In The Circumference of a Prison, Betts shapes his narrative around individuals and families whose lives were profoundly impacted by juvenile incarceration, and in this way reveals the many disastrous effects of these failed policies. But the message in The Circumference of a Prison is also one of hope, as Betts tells stories of the people and programs that are helping to change perceptions.
By setting these stories against a context of shortsighted legislation and sensationalized media reports, Betts powerfully underscores the high societal cost of our nation’s practice of incarcerating juveniles with adults. Timely and persuasive, The Circumference of a Prison is a crucial examination of our troubled justice system and an impassioned plea for reform from an important new voice.

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About the Author:

Dwayne Betts was arrested at sixteen, pled guilty to carjacking, and served eight years in prison. Betts was awarded the 2010 Soros Justice Fellowship to research and write The Circumference of a Prison. He is the national spokesperson of the Campaign for Youth Justice. In fall 2013, Dwayne will begin working toward a law degree at Yale Law School. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.


Praise for Dwayne Betts 

“A searing and ultimately uplifting story.”
—Hill Harper, bestselling author of Letters to a Young Brother
“Betts is a major new voice . . . .and I look forward to being inspired by him for years to come.”
—Russell Simmons
“Required reading for all those young sons and grandsons and brothers and nephews and uncles who believe this can’t happen to them.”
The Baltimore Sun

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