Among Murderers: Life after Prison

Among Murderers: Life after Prison

Among Murderers: Life after Prison

Among Murderers: Life after Prison


What is it like for a convicted murderer who has spent decades behind bars to suddenly find himself released into a world he barely recognizes? What is it like to start over from nothing? To answer these questions Sabine Heinlein followed the everyday lives and emotional struggles of Angel Ramos and his friends Bruce and Adam--three men convicted of some of society's most heinous crimes--as they return to the free world.

Heinlein spent more than two years at the Castle, a prominent halfway house in West Harlem, shadowing her protagonists as they painstakingly learn how to master their freedom. Having lived most of their lives behind bars, the men struggle to cross the street, choose a dish at a restaurant, and withdraw money from an ATM. Her empathetic first-person narrative gives a visceral sense of the men's inner lives and of the institutions they encounter on their odyssey to redemption. Heinlein follows the men as they navigate the subway, visit the barber shop, venture on stage, celebrate Halloween, and loop through the maze of New York's reentry programs. She asks what constitutes successful rehabilitation and how one faces the guilt and shame of having taken someone's life.

With more than 700,000 people being released from prisons each year to a society largely unprepared--and unwilling--to receive them, this book provides an incomparable perspective on a pressing public policy issue. It offers a poignant view into a rarely seen social setting and into the hearts and minds of three unforgettable individuals who struggle with some of life's harshest challenges.


By talking and hanging out with murderers, child molesters, burglars, drug dealers, and robbers, I entered a parallel world unfamiliar to most of us. Although these former criminals are among us, our lives rarely intersect. What is life like for those who have spent several decades in prison and are released into a world in which people and places they once knew have ceased to exist? What is it like to start over from nothing? And did prison succeed in making them see the error of their ways?

I was still working on my master’s degree at New York University’s Carter Journalism Institute when I set out to learn how New York’s growing net of reentry organizations helps former prisoners ease back into freedom. The goal of these agencies is to rehabilitate their clients—to restore their livelihoods and prevent them from going back to prison. After spending large parts of their lives locked up, these men and women need a roof over their heads, medical care, and a job—any job, really.

In 2007 I began to attend reentry events where advocates, ex-cons, and their family members discussed the challenges of life after prison. I talked to the clients and staff of reentry organizations with Pollyanna-ish names like STRIVE (Support and Training Results in Valuable Employees), CEO (Center . . .

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