Last Chance in Texas
John Hubner
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Buy *Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth* online
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Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth
John Hubner
Random House
304 pages
September 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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With Texas having the reputation for having hardcore attitudes toward crime and punishment, how is it that it has one of the most successful (and aggressive) facilities for rehabilitating criminal youth? This is the question that got former staff writer for the Boston Phoenix John Hubner (Bottom Feeders, Somebody Else’s Children, Monkey On A Stick) thinking and writing.

In Last Chance In Texas: The Redemption Of Criminal Youth, Hubner spends nine months at the Giddings State School in Giddings, Texas, to find the answer to this question. What he finds is a powerful look into how the abuse at home is inextricably linked with the violence that the troubled youth do later on. But the most moving stuff in the book is the dialogue that comes straight from the mouths of the incarcerated during intense therapy sessions.

Tran was five the night he heard his aunt screaming and rushed out of bed and into the kitchen to see his uncle knocking her around, a moment Tran recalled with startling clarity.

‘My aunt is on the floor. She says, ‘why are you doing this?’ my uncle says, ‘I’m the man of the house. I do what I want! I can go out, I can drink! I don’t give a f**k!’

‘What did it feel like, standing there, watching?’ asked Frank Soto.

‘Like chicken skin,’ Tran replied. ‘Like when you walk into a cold place. Goose bumps.’

‘I feel like I want top whup him but I’m too small!’ Tran wailed. ‘If I try to tackle him, he gonna beat me up! I start to cry. He sees me and runs over and kicks me in the hip, boom! I stumble forward; he smacks me in the head, pow. I’m confused.’

After that night, Tran’s uncle chained him to a table every morning, leaving him alone in the empty house until late afternoon when he’d return and unlock the chains. The first thing he did was kick Tran because there was always a pool of urine on the floor. As he told his story, Tran kept referring to “my chain,” a description Dr. Sherry Whatley found appalling.

‘Your chain, Tran, your chain?’ Whatley inquired. “A dog has a chain, not a human being!’
The emotional scars that come out in the therapy sessions are bone-chilling. Though there is no excuse for the maiming, and killing, and stealing, but now you can get a peek at what created the anger and hatred contained within and how they exorcise the vitriol from their soul. An absolutely stunning book.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Bobby Blades, 2005

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