Book Reviews

Photojournalist takes a poignant look inside juvenile hall
            Susan Madden Lankford has published, through Human Exposure Publishing, LLC, the third volume of a trilogy that provides a real look at some of society’s most unpleasant circumstances.  Lankford is a photojournalist.  Her piecing photographs lead the reader through a graphic and compelling journey inside the walls of juvenile hall.
Born, Not Raised: Voices from Juvenile Hall is a series of photographs and recorded conversations compiled during visits to juvenile facilities in San Diego and Alpine, California.
            Lankford first wrote about woman in prison in Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Woman Doing Time.  Then she explored homelessness in downTown U.S.A.: A Personal Journey with the Homeless.  In the third installment, Born, Not Raised, Lankford used photographs to initiate, and elaborate on, conversations with young residents of juvenile hall.  Each juvenile’s hand written explanation of Lankford’s photographs provide a unique insight into the world of broken families and non-existent parents.
            In what appears to be a remake of an old photograph depicting a well dressed husband, wife and two infant children in a stroller, Lankford illicted the fallowing caption: “John and Mary are arguing…John personally dont (sic) like Marys (sic) mom.” The caption, by a 15-year-old female, concludes, “He didn’t (sic) get any dinner and ended up sleeping up (sic) on the couch for 2 nights”
            A photograph of a boy kicking a soccer ball with an adult male videotaping the boy generated, from a 15-year-old male, the following, “It look (sic) like a boy who is playing with his dad.  That lucky mother fu---r.”
            A photograph of a grey haired woman sitting at an outdoor table with a younger woman got this response from a 15-year-old female, “I think she took tis (sic) picture because thats (sic) her family (sic) and I wish I was in that picture.”
            Lankford spends a year interacting with judges, psychiatrists and most importantly residents of juvenile hall.  She provides a powerful, yet painful, look at damaged young people who are caught up in the system as they struggle with individual emotional turmoil.  The book can be, at times, difficult to read.   
Lankford concludes that, “[I]nstitutions like juvenile hall are not a good substitute for a family.”  Psychiatrist Diane Campbell said, “The youth in the hall don’t need miracle workers; they simply need some who is “just good enough.”
Lankford makes it clear that “good enough” consists of a reliable, loving and nurturing figure that will help mold a child.  She uses her skills as a writer and photographer to make sure her readers understand the plight of troubled young people and how to turn “at-risk” youths into “at-promise” youths.

In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson

Every day on this site I blog about issues of crime and punishment. Today’s post is different. Although not the usual law and order subject matter, below is a review of Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts. The book chronicles diplomatic activity in pre-WW II Germany—as well as the rise to prominence of the most infamous mass killer in world history.

William E. Dodd arrived in Germany as American Ambassador about six months after Adolph Hitler was appointed chancellor. Erik Larson in his book, In the Garden of Beasts writes about Dodd and his family during the early years of Hitler’s ascent to absolute power.
Dodd was a history professor at the University of Chicago. A close relationship with FDR helped him gain the diplomatic post over the objection of some in the state department. Under Secretary of State William Phillips, whose wife was a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, felt Dodd was not fit for such an important diplomatic post. Dodd was not part of the “pretty good club.” In Phillips’ eyes club membership was exclusively for men in the Foreign Service who came from wealth—and Harvard, Yale or Princeton.
Although Larson suggests that Dodd practiced “rudimentary anti-Semitism,” he complained about the number of Jews on his staff, and referred to the mistreatment of Jews in Hitler’s Germany as the “Jewish problem,” he did acknowledge early in his German service that the treatment of Jews by the Nazis was shameful.
Larson’s book focuses on Dodd’s first year in Germany. In fact, 340 of 365 pages of text spans July 1933 to August 1934. Dodd initially believes that the Nazis were becoming more “moderate.” That notion is short lived. Dodd’s daughter Martha soon observed SA Storm Troopers brutally parade a woman through the streets with a placard around her neck, “I have offered myself to a Jew.”
Larson dedicates a significant portion of the book to Martha’s romantic trysts. She was recently divorced from her American husband, a New York City banker. She became involved with Rudolf Diels, the Chief of the Gestapo; Boris Winogradou a Soviet diplomat, who was later revealed as a Soviet spy; Putzi Hansfstaengl the Nazi foreign press chief who introduced Martha to Hitler with a view toward bringing the two together “romantically.”
Despite the frivolity of Dodd’s offspring, he sensed the impending doom hanging over Berlin as described In the Garden of Beasts, “It was something everyone who lived in Berlin seemed to experience. You began to think differently about whom you met for lunch and for that matter what café or restaurant you chose…In the most casual of circumstances you spoke carefully and paid attention to those around you in a way you never had before. Berliners came to practice what was known as the ‘German Glance’—der deutsche blick—a quick look in all directions when encountering a friend or acquaintance on the street.”
Dodd’s sense of dread and foreboding came to a head about a year after his arrival in Germany. On June 30, 1934, the “night of the long knives” Hitler ordered the murder of hundreds of SA officers including his long time friend Captain Ernest Rohm.
Although Washington refused to take an official position against Nazism in the aftermath of the massacre, Dodd refused to attend Nazi political functions saying, “It is humiliating to me to shake hands with known and confessed murderers.” Dodd met resistance from the U.S. State Department but managed to hold on to the post for three more years, although Larsen reveals little about those years.
Larsen credits Dodd with being one of the highest ranking American officials to see the Nazis for what they really were, blood thirst mad men who would do anything to advance their agenda and expand their power. Dodd is adulated by Larson, in retrospect, the way Winston Churchill was adulated at the time—a lone voice of dissent. Dodd, through Larsen, was out of his league.
Larson superficially addresses a revealing incident in Dodd’s post diplomatic career. In December of 1938, a year after leaving Germany, Dodd hit a four-year-old girl with his car on the way to a speaking engagement. He left the scene of the accident. He explained his action as, “It was not my fault.” He was later prosecuted and convicted.
Martha, Dodd’s daughter, married again, and lived her life as an expatriate in Prague.
Larson offers a glimpse into Hitler’s early years and how men of intelligence and diplomatic skill failed to intervene. However, the book neither inflames outrage, nor prompts one to seriously reflect on how this could have occurred. Maybe, the genius of Larsen’s book is that its matter-of-fact presentation demonstrates to the reader how easy it is to ignore the obvious when it does not touch one directly.

The Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow

Providing legal counsel to men and woman facing imminent execution is a difficult and often painful occupation. The Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow provides an excruciating look at the machinery of state sponsored death and its affect on those close to the process.

Dow began representing condemned inmates in 1989 and has represented over 100 inmates sentenced to death. Dow is also a law school professor and admits that most of his clients are dead. He counts a delay in being executed as a victory—not clemency or exoneration. He knows that a substantial number of his clients are guilty of murder, but he contends that seven of his clients may have been innocent, including Henry Quaker (not his real name) whose story was intertwined throughout the book.

Dow’s book jumps from his frenetic office, to prison visits, to his home with his wife Katya and their young son Lincoln, to the Walls Unit (the death chamber) of the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville.

The book is enthralling. Dow is candid, although he created some composite characters and changed the names of the book’s characters citing the Rules of Professional Responsibility governing ethics for lawyers. He reveals sexual advances by a female judge presiding over one of his cases and his own office’s possible malpractice in failing to meet a deadline that may have provided a postponement for a mentally retarded inmate who was executed.

While Dow is ardently opposed to the death penalty and makes no bones about it, he made an interesting point when writing about Clarence Darrow’s waiver of a jury trial for Leopold and Loeb. Darrow put the pressure squarely on the judge to decide his clients’ fate. Dow wrote:

What Darrow understood was that our system of capital punishment
survives because it is built on an evasion. It permits everyone to avoid responsibility. A juror is one of twelve, and therefore the decision is not hers. A judge who imposes a jury’s sentence is implementing someone else’s will, and therefore the decision is not his. A judge on the court of appeals is one of three, or one of nine and professes to be constrained by the decision of the finder of fact, and therefore it’s someone else’s call. Federal judges say it is the state court’s decision. The Supreme Court justices simply say nothing, content to permit
the machinery of death to grind on with their tacit acquiescence.

Darrow didn’t let them hide. He demanded that people who uphold the
law take responsibility for their actions, especially when those actions are momentous.

Dow writes about people and places that are often off-limits to most of society. Whether it is morbid curiosity or just a genuine interest in the plight of victims and the condemned, Dow’s vivid description of the final moments before execution or the area surrounding the death chamber or the death chamber keep the reader turning pages.

Here is an example of Dow’s rich and powerful use of words to set the scene for the often uneasy moments depicted in The Autobiography of an Execution, “The holding cell has a distinctly medieval feel. It is damp and dark and gray. There is no TV or radio, but there is a rotary-dial telephone on the concrete floor that might have been new in the 1970s. To get to the place where the condemned prisoners spend the final three hours of their lives, you pass through the electronically controlled doors. Then you exit the prison through a heavy steel door that opens with a key that is eight inches long. The warden’s assistant, the key dangling around his neck as if he were a character in a Dickens novel…”

If you have an interest in the death penalty, whether you support capital punishment or oppose it, Dow’s book is worth reading.

Book Review: The Road Out of Hell by Anthony Flacco

Thirteen year old Sanford Clark lived through unspeakable horrors at the hand of this Uncle Gordon Stewart Northcott. Uncle Stewart raped and tortured Sanford for two years, while the two lived on Northcott’s isolated chicken ranch in southern California.

However, rape and torture were only part of the story. Anthony Flacco in his meticulously researched book The Road Out of Hell tells the rest of the story. Northcott sodimized, tortured and murdered as many as twenty boys on the ranch, known as the Winesville Chicken Coup. He forced Sanford, under threat of violence, to join in his fiendish conduct. Northcott’s mother, an enabler of her psychotic son, willingly joined in his diabolical murders.

The book’s chilling interplay between mother and child is a vivid portrait of psychopathy. Flacco describes when Northcott invited his mother, under false pretenses, to the ranch because he kidnapped a child whose mother knew Northcott. Northcott’s mother said, moments before she murdered the child, “All of that shit about sick birds. Do you know that I used up my days off for the entire month to come out here?” Flacco described the psychopath, lack of emotion, empathy and remorse, without a single clinical reference.

The Academy-Award nominated movie Changeling directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie is based in part on the Winesville killings and the haunting relationship between Sanford and Northcott.

Flacco’s story goes beyond the mind boggling deviance of Northcutt. Flacco weaves a story of redemption out of a tale of horror. Sanford Clark’s story doesn’t end at the Winesville Chicken Coup in southern California—it is just beginning.

The Road Out of Hell is riveting. The first 170 pages wherein the book details the tormented life of Sanford Clark, the rape, torture and murder of some of Northcott's many child victims and the twisted relationship between Northcott and his mother was at times difficult to comprehend. However, it was also difficult to put down.

The book is an amazing tale of how little separates the diabolical from the divine. There are countless stories of offenders who blame a childhood of abuse, lack of family support or underprivileged upbringing for their criminal ways. Yet, Flacco provides us with a portrait of a man who overcame abuse and lived, by all accounts, a model life. The Road Out of Hell tells two stories, both equally incongruent, one about evil and one about good.

The Road Out of Hell demonstrates that a victim of the unthinkable can survive and thrive. The book provides the reader with a compelling perspective on victimization, psychopathy and redemption.

Book Review: The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt

A new compilation of Tony Judt’s recent essays was released by Penguin press this fall. Tony Judt died on August 6, 2010. He succumbed to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Judt was a writer and a teacher. In his final days, although not in a classroom or even able to sit in front of a keyboard, he continued to do both through his mastery of thoughts and words.

I first became acquainted with Judt’s writing in the New York Review of Books (NYRB). He wrote extensively for many publications besides the NYRB, including the New York Times and the New Republic. He also wrote 14 books.
After his death, a book of 25 essays was released under the title The Memory Chalet. At least 15 of the essays were originally published in the NYRB. Each essay is a trip back in Judt’s life that is both revealing and enchanting. Judt is funny, candid, probing and contemplative.

In an essay entitled “Night” Judt concisely explains what ALS has done to his body. The first several paragraphs are jaw dropping as he lays out in detail how his very active mind is trapped in a very dormant body.
I have read the essay several times. The first reading came through the NYRB and later in The Memory Chalet and several times in between. With each reading, stillness came over me as my palm moistened; my heart raced; my mouth dried. Every word written by Judt jumped off the page as he expanded on the tragedy of an enslaving affliction. Judt wrote, “In effect, ALS constitutes progressive imprisonment without parole. First you lose the use of a digit or two; then a limb; then and almost inevitably, all four. The muscles of the torso decline into near torpor, a practical problem from the digestive point of view but also life-threatening, in that breathing becomes at first difficult and eventually impossible without external assistance in the form of a tube-pump-apparatus.”

Judt wrote about the mental exercises that brought about relief from the otherwise desolate period between bedtime and morning. “My solution has been to scroll through my life, my thoughts, my fantasies, my memories, mis-memories, and the like, until I have chanced upon events, people, or narratives that I can employ to divert my mind from the body in which it is encased.”

In Judt’s essay “Words” he lamented, “a world of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter (not to mention texting), pithy allusion substitutes for exposition.” He wrote of the past when, “Poor expression belied poor thought. Confused words suggested confused ideas at best, dissimulation at worst.”

He then sets forth, unforgivingly, his thoughts about today’s problem with words, “Shoddy prose today bespeaks intellectual insecurity: We speak and write badly because we don’t feel confident in what we think and are reluctant to assert it unambiguously (“it’s only my opinion…”).”

Judt then defined why he is so acutely aware of the misuse of language, “I am more conscious of these considerations now than at any time in the past. In the grip of a neurological disorder, I am fast losing control of words even as my relationship with the world has been reduced to them.”
Judt’s most poignant essay is “Captive Minds.” I read it for the first time in The Memory Chalet. The essay defines what I believe is a gigantic problem in America today—the avoidance of thinking—how falling-in-step rather than challenging is the easy way out and essentially leads to loss of liberty.

He made his point by citing the work of Czech writer Czelaw Milosz. Milosz wrote about people who could live with the contradiction of saying one thing and believing another. These people known collectively as “Ketman” could follow the directives of their rulers while believing that within themselves they have preserved “the autonomy of a free thinker.”
“Recall the Ketman-like trance of those intellectuals swept up in George W. Bush’s hysterical drive to war just a few years ago,” wrote Judt. Today we see it in many more subtle ways. A state lawmaker tells us we need to enhance the length of sentence for a certain class of offenders, knowing full well that prisons are at capacity and the budget provides little leeway to build more facilities. We accept that conduct as leadership without critical analysis.

Judt writes that the market, “has its true believers—mediocre thinkers by contrast with the founding fathers…(believers) who may privately doubt the claims of the dogma but see no alternative to preaching it.” He concludes the essay with, “Milosz’s indictment of the servile intellectual rings truer than ever: ‘his chief characteristic is his fear of thinking for himself.’”

Judt’s insight will be missed, not to mention his smooth prose. The Memory Chalet gives us a glimpse into the man and more importantly how his experiences shaped his erudite analysis of people, places and events.

‘A Letter to America’: A Blueprint for the Future

David Boren has had, by any standard, an illustrious career. He was governor of Oklahoma. He spent 16 years as a United States Senator. He served as chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence longer than any other member of the Senate. Yet, he walked away from one of the most powerful leadership positions in one of the most power bodies in the world. He has spent the last 14 years as President of the University of Oklahoma.

Boren is part of Oklahoma’s first family. His father served in the U.S. House of Representatives and his son Dan serves there today. Boren left the Senate with 2 years remaining in his third term, in part because of the growing partisanship that made his work in government distasteful.

The concerns that forced Boren from public office have grown in the 14 years that followed. In his new book A Letter to America, Boren proposes a blueprint for keeping America on track as a leading world power.

The book implores readers to look realistically at the world order. America has only 6-percent of the world’s population. China and India have five times as many people as the U.S. Their economies will soon equal America’s economy. Unfortunately, America has also squandered the good will earned following World War II and enhanced immediately after 9/11. All of this adds to the urgency of Boren’s writing.

Boren’s most passionate writing is conveyed in his call for reform in campaigns and elections. Boren left the Senate due to the partisan backbiting that created gridlock in the Congress. That was 14 years ago. Matters have grown far worse.

The author points to the bipartisanship that followed WW II to illuminate his concerns for today. What if our current Democratic President and Congress proposed something like the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Germany after the war. Imagine the GOP talking points, “The Democrats want to tax you to help the very people who killed and wounded our fathers and sons.” Instead, in 1945 and 1946 GOP leaders supported the plan to rebuild our former enemies.

Boren proposes a couple of things to address the incivility in public life. First create a commission to redistrict congressional districts. Take that authority away from partisan state legislatures. An independent commission would structure districts that are representative of the people they serve. Second, create campaign reform that would reduce out-of-district special interest money. Require that campaign contributions come from people who live in the district.

One thing missing from Boren’s reform package was term limits. During a recent visit to the Chautauqua Institution in New York, I had the chance to talk with Boren about the role of term limits in his plan for reform. Boren said without reservation, “I’m not convinced that term limits are a good thing.” Boren felt that legislative bodies need some historic perspective that only veteran lawmakers bring to the table. He believes that other reforms (redistricting and finance) will push out poor legislators and will not subject good legislators to arbitrary removal.

In A Letter to America, Boren also suggests that the president institutionalize bipartisan mini-cabinets made up of congressional leaders from both parties. He implores moderate legislators to form bipartisan caucuses and he wishfully suggests electing an independent president who would form a multi-party cabinet fashioned after Churchill’s war cabinet of WW II.

The book also sets forth five things that America can do to insure its place among national powers. First, better understand the rest of the world, through study abroad beyond the borders of Europe. Second, understand the goals that unite countries. Third, reconstruct our intelligence system for a post-cold war world. Fourth, cooperate with the rest of the world to meet environmental challenges, and finally create a military force of leading countries to police the world and respond to crisis.

While Boren also writes about the country’s economic health or more aptly, our unhealthy economy and gives equal time to our failing education system or as he puts our failing memory—history study has fallen out of vogue—I want to focus some attention on his chapter titled, “Our Disappearing Middle Class.”

Boren bemoaned the fact that more members of the middle class have dipped into the ranks of the working poor or those in throes of poverty. He wrote that in 2005, the income for the top 1-percent of the richest American’s grew by 14-percent, while the average income for 9 out of 10 American’s dipped by 6-percent. He proposes a more progressive tax structure, expansion of federal education grants and health care for the uninsured.

Boren’s A Letter to America contains an ambitious plan for sustaining America. If America is to continue to be a world superpower we need ambitious plans. America needs to dream big and Boren provides a blueprint as a first step toward making those dreams come true.

'Mockingbird' turns 50

Youngstown Vindicator
August 1, 2010

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Published in 1960, the book is a literary classic that won Lee a Pulitzer Prize. The film adaptation earned Gregory Peck an Academy Award.

The story takes place during the Depression in the fictional town of Maycomb, Ala. The narrator’s father Atticus Finch, a lawyer and state legislator, is appointed to represent Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.

The narrator is Atticus’s daughter, Scout, who with her brother and a friend, watched the trial from the courthouse balcony. Although Atticus represented Robinson deftly and the evidence weighed heavily in Robinson’s favor, he was convicted and sentenced to death.


Many scholars have studied the implications of Lee’s work. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of the most read literary works in American history with over 30 million copies sold. The book has been cited for its influence on the civil rights movement and the character of Atticus Finch has been lauded as the model father, as well as possessing the integrity and temperament for which all lawyers should aspire. In 1997, the Alabama State Bar erected a monument to Atticus Finch in Monroeville, the hometown of Harper Lee, marking the “first commemorative milestone in the state’s judicial history.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” examines a number of significant issues (race, gender, poverty, domestic violence, courage and cowardice) through the lens of a rural southern criminal justice system. The legal system of Finch’s mid-1930s and even Lee’s of 1960 are, in some ways, very different than today’s.

After Robinson’s conviction, Atticus and his son, Jem, discussed the real or perceived flaws of the criminal justice system. Jem told Atticus, “Lots of folks have been hung — hanged — on circumstantial evidence.”

Atticus responded, “I know, and lots of ‘em probably deserved it, too — but in the absence of eyewitnesses there’s always a doubt, sometimes only the shadow of a doubt. The law says ‘reasonable doubt,’ but I think a defendant’s entitled to the shadow of a doubt. There is always the possibility, no matter how improbable, that he’s innocent”

Jem then suggested, “We ought to do away with the juries.” Atticus replied, “You’re rather hard on us, son. I think maybe there might be a better way. Change the law. Change it so that only judges have the power of fixing the penalty in capital cases.”

Innocence Project

Some 50 years after Lee wrote those words the criminal justice system has gone, and continues to go, in different directions. For instance, eyewitness evidence is under attack. Many observers of the court system suggest, not as Atticus Finch that you need eyewitnesses to confirm guilt, but rather that eyewitness evidence in not always the most reliable evidence. The Innocence Project contends that eyewitness misidentification testimony was a factor in 75 percent of post-conviction DNA exoneration cases in the U.S., making it the leading cause of wrongful convictions.

Atticus’ suggestion that judges make decisions of life and death was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Furman v. Georgia. The Court ruled, that the death penalty as it was being imposed at the time, was an arbitrary punishment and therefore unconstitutional. When the death penalty resurfaced in 1976, juries were the primary arbiter of life and death.

However, Atticus’ comment that there is “always the possibility, no matter how improbable, that he’s [the accused is] innocent” remains the rallying cry of death penalty opponents. Although no one can point unequivocally to a single innocent person who has been executed in the modern era of the death penalty, many abolitionists argue that the risk of executing an innocent person far out-weighs any benefit derived from the death penalty.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a timeless classic that with every reading provides new insight into an America struggling to reinvent itself in the 1930s, and how many of those struggles continue today.

Book Explores Homicide in America

A new book suggests that politics has more to do with murder than poverty, race and unemployment. Randolph Roth, a professor at Ohio State University, has published American Homicide. Roth has concluded that homicide is directly related to how people feel about their government. Roth distinguishes a healthy distrust for government with a disdain for government. Disdain is a precursor to hopelessness and in turn homicide.

Roth traces hatred toward the government back to the Civil War when the government was literally torn in two by competing interests and very different moral standards in attaining those interests. The modern form of “split asunder” has manifested itself in divisive, partisan elections. Starting in 2000 with Bush and Gore and continuing through the Obama/ McCain election, politics has taken on a vitriolic tone that can be best described as uninformed, inflamed rancor.

Roth charts the changing political landscape which increases or decreases in the homicide rate. For instance the Nixon Administration followed by the Carter administration brought about a feeling of distrust, hopelessness, and frustration. Political scandal, a sputtering economy, racial tensions and the Iranian hostage crisis ushered in an unprecedented increase in lawlessness.

The Obama administration bears out Roth’s theory. In urban areas, where Obama did extremely well in 2008, citizens felt empowered and realized the most significant decrease in homicide in 2009. In cities with a population of a 100,000 or more, that increased their GOP vote in 2008, endured an 11-percent increase in homicide.

Roth suggests that the bitter partisan rhetoric from both Democrats and GOP’s fuels the disdain with government. Citizens are generally disenchanted with the process and that feeling of hopelessness fuels violence. In fact, he attempts to discredit the influences of poverty, drugs, unemployment, alcohol and race on violence-particularly homicide. Roth’s theory is provocative and he can point to the national political arena as his laboratory.

Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
672 pages

Book Explores Causes of Violence Among Young Black Men

John A. Rich a physician, a professor at Drexel University and former director of the Boston Public Health Commission has written an interesting book on violence among young black men. Rich's book, Wrong Place, Wrong Time:Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men, provides a vivid look at the cause and effect of violence in troubled neighborhoods.

The background statistics are astounding. The homicide rate for black males ages 15-24 is 92 deaths per 100,000 people. The homicide rate for white males the same age is 4.7 per 100,000. The homicide rate for young black men is 19 times higher than young white men.

Rich makes clear that "homicide is only the tip of the iceberg." The book is not about homicide and when you look at the pervasive nature of non-lethal trauma you understand why. For every murder in this country there are 94 non-lethal assaults. There are four non-fatal gunshot victims for every murder; 64 non-fatal stabbings for every lethal stabbing; and 3,243 non-fatal assaults for every deadly assault. There are over 1.6 million victims of non-fatal shootings, stabbings or assaults every year in this country.

As Rich delves into the personal stories of traumatic gunshot wound survivors, he begins to paint a vivid picture of how violence and trauma simply breed more violence and trauma. Young people who feel vulnerable seek out protection in the form of weapons, often firearms, to sooth their insecurities. The hyper-vigilance that comes with things like post traumatic stress disorder contribute to the cyclical nature of violence. Rich describes what drives these young men back to violent injury as "the hazy fog of trauma."

The numbers don't lie. Forty-five percent of young black men who receive a penetrating injury (gunshot or stab wound) receive a similar injury within five years--at some point 20-percent of those victims die of a subsequent penetrating injury.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men
John A. Rich
Johns Hopkins University