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sabot Wooden Shoe Books: anarchist and radical literature
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Book Reviews ...

Reviewed: I Cried, You Didn't Listen: A Survivor's Expose of the California Youth Authority by Dwight E. Abbott
Review by: James Generic

The author of this book states that he wrote it while in solitary confinement. It's a trip into his childhood, where he came of age in California's Juvenile system. It takes place throughout his childhood years, beginning with an early stay at age 6 (along with a rape by a counselor). The rest is his teenage years spent trying to survive the brutal system of rape, violence, and sadistic counselors (also known as prison guards).

It's very chilling. I couldn't peel myself away from this book, even though it has graphic descriptions of rapes and brutal fights between gangs of boys not even old enough to shave. The fact that the author even survived that system, which incidentally took place in the 1960s, impresses me. When I was a teenager, a few friends of mine ended up in a juvenile drug rehab center at Horsham, PA, and afterwards they were extremely shaken up. It turned out later they had been raped. Not much has changed in the last 40 years.

Abbott and his companion quickly rise to the top of the ruling prison gang, which he uses to attempt several escapes. Each time, he nearly makes it. It's amazing that he goes for his parents, who are totally excluded from being able to help their boy. He forms a love relationship with his companion which he must hide in order to survive. The counselors maintain the order by daily beatdowns and shake-ups, and when it comes down to it, the boys are treated exactly like adults. The prison system makes people have to fight for their survival almost daily, or be pushed to a fate of worse than death.

It makes the reader wonder why anyone thinks that prisons can reform any person. Trapping someone in a room and punishing them for years with the most sadistic people doesn't seem like a good way to reform anyone. In the end, prison, for adults or kids, really just sweeps the problem of emotional disturbance underneath the carpet. Nowadays, a few million reside in United States prisons, the largest such population in the world (even more than China, which has 5 times the population). We're at a time when the ruling classes think it's better to completely separate millions into boxes than to even give a carrot to oppressed communities.

Dwight Abbott remains in jail today, and he says he wouldn't be there unless the Juvenile Youth Authority had twisted him as a human being to the point where the only place he could exist was in a prison. They destroyed him as a teenager at a critical point in any human being's development. Why? If you want a window into how a person can be destroyed, read this book. At the same time, if you want to see how a person can keep some amount of love and hope for a better day (away from the prison), read this book as well.


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