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Dreams from the Monster Factory
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Powerful, captivating, and hopeful, Dreams from the Monster Factory goes beyond statistics and sensational portrayals of prison life and reveals the troubling realities of U.S. jails, and an astonishing alternative. . Sunny Schwartz founded the Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP), a restorative justice program based in a San Francisco jail that has cut recidivism for violent rearrests by up to 80 percent. Schwartz makes no excuses for the rapists, gangbangers and murderers she works with, nor will she excuse a prison system that churns out criminals who are more dangerous when they leave prison than when they arrived. Instead, she s created a correctional program that is designed to empower victims and require offenders to take true responsibility for their actions and eliminate their violent behavior. ."
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The thorny topic of rehabilitating offenders in the American penal system remains front and center in this book by Schwartz, an expert in criminal justice reform in the San Francisco area, with an able assist from TV writer and producer Boodell. Schwartz asks a central question: "What do we do with the people who get out of jail and come back to communities?" Using real stories of former convicts and their victims, Schwartz concludes that the horrible conditions in prisons, the "monster factories" of the title, create people incapable of empathy or compassion who return to society and commit more crimes. A series of family concerns thrust Schwartz into helping spearhead the Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP) in San Francisco to create a prison that doesn't reinforce violence and that joins offenders and victims in a union of empowerment and accountability. Lucid, gritty and penetrating, this book is perhaps one of the most effective testaments available in the campaign to rehabilitate those we lock up and sometimes abandon. (Jan.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Schwartz here recalls 27 years of working in California's prison system as a legal aide to the inmates and her creation of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department Resolve To Stop the Violence Project (RSVP). Schwartz's upbringing in a dysfunctional family on Chicago's South Side and her general abhorrence for school gave her much in common with people she met in the "Monster Factory" (her name for a prison). Using her own experience of earning a law degree and dealing with the demons around her, she worked with those behind bars, feeling certain that many of them could be redeemed. After a bouncy prolog, Schwartz continues with uneven writing; some incidents are effectively told, while others do not come across clearly. The value of the book, however, is that it offers many suggestions to people who work with a similar population. Other readers who do not know what prisons are like will certainly find Schwartz's experiences eye-opening. Although not an essential purchase, this would be a good addition to a crime collection in any library. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/08.]-Frances Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

""Dreams from the Monster Factory" is as gritty as the halls of the San Francisco jail in which it takes place. But rather than being filled with despair and violence, Sunny Schwartz's story is marked by hope and respect. It is truly breathtaking to read about the transformation of the jails that Sunny has led. Putting the principles of restorative justice to work at ground zero of the crime culture, Sunny and her team have created a space where hardened criminals can realize their better selves and begin giving back to the community that they have heretofore only taken from." -- Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship "S unny Schwartz understands accountability, kindness and forgiveness. In her brave and empowering book about people's ability to change, she tells the story of her life and her work with people who are often detested, feared or forgotten and explains how restorative justice can transform these criminals, their victims and our communities." -- Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking" " Personal and provocative, Sunny Schwartz's book demanded my wide-eyed attention. Schwartz confronts our skepticism of the prison system and its ability to prevent violence with gripping and authentic stories from her life and her work on a visionary program in the San Francisco jails that has actually reduced recidivism rates for violent crimes. Dreams from the Monster Factory is an inspiring story about justice and forgiveness." -- Terrie M. Williams, author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting "A powerfully honest and revealing glimpse into a little-known world. Ms. Schwartz captivates the reader with her clear-eyed belief that even violent offenders can change. Her work shows that violent behavior is a choice and our communities can be stronger if each of us -- victims, offenders, citizens -- better understands why we act the way we do. As a survivor of violent crime, I respect Ms. Schwartz's insistence that the penal system is not working. I admire her willingness to follow her heart toward a vision that will make a difference." -- Trisha Meili, author of I Am the Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope and Possibility " I couldn't put this book down. This is to the world of prisons and rehabilitation what Dead Man Walking is to the death penalty. It's gritty and real, simple yet revolutionary, hopeful but realistic. It isn't all happy endings, but there is vision combined with experience that suggests a way out of the morass our society is in. Dreams, yes, but not fantasies." -- Howard Zehr, professor of restorative justice at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University, and author of Changing Lenses "Dreams from the Monster Factory is as gritty as the halls of the San Francisco jail in which it takes place. But rather than being filled with despair and violence, Sunny Schwartz's story is marked by hope and respect. It is truly breathtaking to read about the transformation of the jails that Sunny has led. Putting the principles of restorative justice to work at ground zero of the crime culture, Sunny and her team have created a space where hardened criminals can realize their better selves and begin giving back to the community that they have heretofore only taken from." -- Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship "Sunny Schwartz understands accountability, kindness and forgiveness. In her brave and empowering book about people's ability to change, she tells the story of her life and her work with people who are often detested, feared or forgotten and explains how restorative justice can transform these criminals, their victims and our communities." -- Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

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