Book Review: When Prisoners Come Home

By · Wednesday, May 20th, 2009
Date Read: May 6, 2009
Title: When Prisoners Come Home
Author: Joan Petersilia, PhD
Publisher: Oxford University Press (2003)
Nonfiction/296 pages

When Prisoners Come Home was the seventh book I read in 2009

Why I read When Prisoners Come Home:

On March 27 of this year, Carole relayed an email message from Professor Joan Petersilia, a distinguished criminologist who is now Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. She was writing a new book on corrections and invited me to contribute a chapter on living in prison. I considered Professor Petersilia’s invitation a huge honor and eagerly accepted. I wrote her a lengthy letter with an outline of what I would write. Professor Petersilia sent me this copy of When Prisoners Come Home.

What I learned from reading When Prisoners Come Home:

This was the first academic book I have read in many years, and I enjoyed reading it more than any other academic book that I can remember. The subject matter was and is of intense interest to me for obvious reasons. This book alarmed me with the horrifying statistics, some of which I knew, others of which I did not. I knew about the high recidivism rates, of course, as I have been reading for years that two out of every three released prisoners return to confinement.

What I did not know prior to reading Professor Petersilia’s book was the overwhelming reluctance employers have in hiring people with prison records. She pointed to studies that showed the high percentage of employers who affirmed that they would never hire someone with a drug conviction or prison record.

Reading books like Professor Petersilia wrote validate the concerns I have had about the obstacles I expect to face upon release. That is why I must continue working hard every day. I must overcome those obstacles by preparing myself in unconventional ways. That includes improving my fitness level, strengthening my communication skills, enhancing my resume with more publishing credentials, nurturing my marriage, and building a stronger network of support that will have a vested interest in my success upon release.

How reading When Prisoners Come Home will contribute to my success upon release:

I am convinced that the more I know about the challenges that await me, the better I can prepare to overcome them. In reading this book, I have gained more knowledge I can use to convey to audiences I expect to address as a speaker, consultant, and teacher. I am recommending this book to other prisoners. Although Professor Petersilia wrote the book for academia, prisoners should read her work as well in order to grasp the importance of preparing for release.

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