John Hubner, author of the new book “Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth” (Random House) had every reason to be skeptical when he began looking into the incarceration of juvenile criminals, says book reviewer Steve Weinberg for the Casey Journalism Center for Children and Families. Hubner had spent his adolescent years as a juvenile delinquent and later as a probation officer.
As a reporter later, he heard about an unusual and supposedly effective rehabilitation approach for teenage felons in Texas. Given Texas' reputation as a “law and order” state with minimal focus on rehabilitation, Hubner visited the Giddings State School, which he had heard gets “the worst of the worst.” Giddings does not try to re-create a family for its offenders. Instead, young offenders face themselves. They work in small groups with trained, empathetic psychologists and social workers, moving through steps that include describing one's life, the crime, and its impact on the victim. They watch as peers role-play to re-enact the crime and its consequences. Completion of these steps often means early release. Failure means transfer to prison for the remainder of the original sentence.