I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life like Mine:
Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup
By David Chura
Beacon Press, 2010; 214 pp., $25.95 (cloth)
I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine explores a county lockup through the eyes of a man who taught high school there for a decade. After the 90’s rhetoric to get tough on youth crime, more and more young offenders were given adult prison sentences. Buddhist author David Chura introduces us to the young men and women at Westchester County jail, describing his relationships with them and their troubled relationships with the outside world. The cast of characters ranges from the stereotypical to the surprising; we meet one boy, in jail for assault, who carries treasured family photos in his pocket. Another prisoner, scarred and muscular, chides Chura for not having read the latest Harry Potter book. Chura doesn’t gloss over the crimes these people have committed—in that environment, they’re impossible to ignore. But he also reveals the inmates as people, many of whom grew up with problems they had little control over. We also meet the wardens—some stern but goodhearted, some hardened and pitiless. Chura offers moments of humor and even hope, but we always return to the frustration and anger of his students, whose poor decisions and poorer circumstances have led them, often repeatedly, inside the walls of the prison.