The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison by Jason Hardy.
Hardy was a high school English teacher, had a master's degree in creative writing, but was toiling away in a retail job when he applied to become a probation officer in New Orleans. Armed with a badge, a gun and good intentions, Hardy is handed his caseload - over 200 cases, double the national average. The department is understaffed and underfunded. Here's a stat for you - over 4.5 million people are on probation or parole in the United States.
Hardy focuses on seven of his cases in The Second Chance Club. Drugs are present in each of these people's lives. Some of them truly want a way out to a better life. But, what does that encompass? A better life means something different for each person. Others are gaming the system. I found myself quite surprised by the breadth of Hardy's job. Maybe it's from reading all those fictional police procedurals - for me, a probation officer sat in an office, with clients checking in on a regular basis, told to get a job and have a drug test. Well, yes that happens, but there's much more to the job. Hardy and his co-workers regularly visit for home inspections (and yes, home includes homeless tent encampments), find shelters, detoxes, counselling, court help and so much more than I knew.
I quickly became invested in the story of those seven cases. What would happen to each of them? Would they escape the past, find a future or continue to live the life they know? Sadly, disaster prevention becomes a phrase heard more than once in this book.
It was impossible not to stop, turn off the player and think as I reflected upon the latest chapter. Hardy himself reflects that "Every hour on the job presented a new opportunity to reflect on my own privilege and the extent to which a person’s place of birth dictates his aspirations..."
The Second Chance Club gives us a real look at the inner workings of the criminal justice system - and suggestions for what needs to change. And change only comes with knowledge. An excellent book and most definitely recommended.
I chose to listen to The Second Chance Club. The reader was a favorite of mine and an excellent choice - Jacques Roy. He seems to take on the personality of the author and becomes the voice for the mental image I had created. It's calming and suited the subject matter. His voice is clear, easy to understand and pleasant to listen to. The speed of speaking is just right, allowing the listener to take it all in. He enunciates well. His voice rises and falls with the emotion/actions etc. Listen for yourself - here's an audio excerpt of The Second Chance Club.
(And as an aside, American Prison is about prisons in Louisiana - a nice companion piece to The Second Chance Club)