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Reality In Your Face!

Lockdown on Rikers: Shocking Stories of Abuse and Injustice at New York's Notorious Jail - Mary E. Buser

Lockdown on Rikers: Shocking Stories of Abuse and Injustice at New York's Notorious Jail

Ms. Buser chronicles her experiences working as a mental health professional at the Rikers Island Jail in NYC. Her tenure coincided with the then Mayor Rudy Giuliani's reign, and his ambitious efforts to combat crime. As a 30 year law enforcement professional myself, 21+ years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I was eagerly awaiting this book. Ms. Buser did not disappoint me. From her early days as a student intern, and through her climb up through the ranks, Buser captures the experiences (and horrors) of captivity. Buser started out with a rather simple philosophy, that being "everyone needs to be heard", and "at least for the moment, they (inmates) found the peace and relief that comes from being deeply heard by another". (In all honesty, I agree with her). As her career progressed, and her experience level rose, she found herself evolving (?), "that if I was going to work with the incarcerated, then I needed to leave judgements to the courts and keep my focus on mental status". I, too, found this to be true. You simply could not continue to function without putting on some sense of "blinders". It was just too much. Eventually, she found "with that session, I saw the light. My belief that everyone could be helped was naive". She discovered one of the reasons for gangs, "the group is a powerful unit, it's inherent draw being that it offers a sense of belonging, a universal human need, which explains much of the allure of gangs". Buser continues to evolve throughout the book. She comes to understand that she cannot "save the world" through her position at the jail. It's a sobering, depressing realization; but one that most (I believe) corrections professionals come to see. I applaud her efforts, (spoiler alert) and wish that it had all turned out better for her. If I could offer her any consolation, it is that she probably did make a difference, it's just hard to see until you have the time and space to step away and realize it. Not a happy read, but I found it to be engaging. Buser is a good writer. I would recommend this book to someone thinking about Corrections as a career.
Completed On:  June 16, 2015