“Juvie Talk” is a visual diary of juvenile justice, taking the reader on a journey to meet young people across the country who share their stories with a startling and refreshing open and honest dialogue. They speak of their parents, their siblings, their foster homes, their struggles and experiences, often with violence, abuse and drugs. They speak of their ambitions, their schooling, their incarceration and their hope of freedom.
Through photojournalism and free-verse narrative, the author slowly unravels our preconceptions and takes the judgment out of the sails of our objections. We are challenged to take a second look, to listen more closely and reflect on the boundless human potential behind bars.
Each page is a window into the physical space of incarceration and the emotional reality of confinement. The book is unique in the way it allows the reader to learn from and listen to children as young as 12 in their own language about how they perceive their incarceration and sentence and the forces of trauma, poverty, violence, criminalization and lack of opportunity that led them from their home to a prison cell so early in life. With more than 1,000 interviews, Richard Ross discovers or confirms the isolation and resignation at the heart of these stories.
As the third book in the “In Justice” series, the book and accompanying website are designed for educators — middle and high school teachers — and their students to reflect on juveniles (in) justice and learn more about human rights, mass incarceration and the potential for children to succeed.
To me, the book is a powerful testament to the power of potential and that words and images are critical in building up this hope or tearing it down. On every page there is a list of common words, colloquial, legal and institutional, related to the juvenile justice system, everything from “Group Home” to “Cutting.” These words remind us, professional or loved one, that young people deserve better and that the causes and consequences of our bloated and broken criminal justice system are far reaching and devastating in their impact.
The future belongs to these young people. As practitioners at the forefront of criminal justice reform, we are their first line of defense to ensure access to justice, opportunity and a true second chance. Let’s not waste it.
With a strong narrative, powerful imagery and an engaging layout, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who was looking for a juvenile justice advocacy or education tool — to challenge, inspire and galvanize.
Aiasha Khalid is deputy director-strategy & impact at Root & Rebound: Reentry Advocates.