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David Chura
David Chura is the author of “I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup” which received a 2010 PASS Award from the National Council on Crime & Delinquency. He has worked with at-risk teenagers for the past 40 years. For 26 of those years, he taught English and creative writing in community based alternative schools and in a county penitentiary. His writings have appeared in the New York Times as well as other scholarly and literary journals. Visit his website at

Entries by David Chura

Hitting Bottom: Incarcerated Women in the Prison Hierachy

(3) Comments | Posted February 23, 2015 | 3:39 PM

A prison can't function without its pecking order. Call it what you will, chain of command, hierarchy, rank, it all comes down to power. Who's got it, who doesn't. Who's on top, who's on bottom. It's an all-inclusive, endemic culture: Wardens, top assistant wardens, captains, sergeants and rank and file...

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Why Prison Reform Is Good for All of Us

(4) Comments | Posted September 4, 2014 | 11:49 AM

Suggest that the way to end recidivism is to reform the prison system, and you might be accused of caring more about criminals than the crimes they commit.

It's happened to me. Often when I write or give a talk about my work with minors in adult...

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The Real Roots of Prison Recidivism

(5) Comments | Posted May 22, 2014 | 5:47 PM

Numbers are tricky. Studies are done. Reports are written. Statistics released. And then people take the numbers and run with them, waving them like protest placards claiming how the numbers prove or disprove some long held "truth." The Right does it. The Left does it. We all do it. Maybe...

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Who Fails When Students Give Up?

(0) Comments | Posted March 11, 2014 | 6:40 PM

Most teachers are curious about what school is like for a student. Meet a kindergarten tyke encountering the classroom for the first time; a middle schooler trying to balance body chemistry, a developing mind and new ways of learning; a high school teenager looking beyond the classroom into the world...

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Prison Is No Place to Grow Up: Why Every State Must Enact Juvenile Justice Reform

(7) Comments | Posted October 30, 2013 | 4:55 PM

Most of us know at least a few young teens -- 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds. A son or daughter. A niece or nephew. A neighbor or a friend's grandchild. We see them around, waiting for the school bus, surfing the sidewalk on a skateboard, hanging out at the mall. Despite what...

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A New Teacher Asks: "How Do I Do This?"

(4) Comments | Posted September 3, 2013 | 3:56 PM

He was a big man, a presence to be reckoned with on any football team. Dressed in a pressed shirt and colorful tie, he spread his arms out and gestured around the room. "I'm a new teacher here. How do I do this?" he asked.

I knew what "this" was--a...

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Why Teachers Are Afraid

(71) Comments | Posted July 10, 2013 | 2:46 PM

This isn't about teachers being afraid that they'll be knifed in class, or have their cars stolen in the bad neighborhoods where they teach. Nor are they worried that a disruptive student will threaten them, or that a disturbed gunman will invade their school. It's not about being berated by...

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The Many Faces of Teacher Activism

(9) Comments | Posted June 10, 2013 | 5:01 PM

When I was recently asked if I thought teachers today needed to be activists I didn't hesitate in my answer. "Being a teacher, almost by definition, means being an activist."

That might come as a surprise to those teachers who have never wrote a letter to the editor,...

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What Common Core Curriculum Misses

(9) Comments | Posted April 22, 2013 | 11:27 AM

It's hard reading about the lockstep curriculum set out by Common Core with its emphasis on "informational readings," and seeing all the hoops students and teachers have to jump through to meet its standards. Quite frankly, it makes me sad.

"Why sad?" you might wonder. Frustrated, maybe, or for that...

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Why Ending Prison Rape Won't Be Easy

(46) Comments | Posted January 23, 2013 | 1:06 PM

It's an optimistic headline: "Prison Rape: Obama's Program to Stop It." It leads into a comprehensive New York Review of Books article on three recently released Federal government publications. Two of these documents examine sexual abuse in the nation's detention centers while the other outlines the Department of...

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The High Stakes of Child Poverty

(2) Comments | Posted September 21, 2012 | 2:53 PM

I met Amber at a tutoring program for inner city children. It was 1966, my senior year in high school, and the war on poverty was on, a war we've failed to win.

At nine-years-old Amber looked like a scarecrow, an old scarecrow at that, bird-picked, weather beaten. She...

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The Harm We Do: Kids in Solitary Confinement

(22) Comments | Posted September 7, 2012 | 5:19 PM

When most Americans hear the familiar constitutional phrase "cruel and unusual punishment" they can tell you what it means, at least to them. Hanging. Flogging. Chopping a hand off. Chain gangs.

Putting juvenile offenders in solitary confinement is high on my list of "cruel and unusual punishment." What else...

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Seeking Justice and Real Crime Prevention

(8) Comments | Posted July 31, 2012 | 4:14 PM

"You don't care about the victims. All you care about are those kids."

It was a comment I've heard in one form or another at book events, at juvenile justice talks I've given, or in response to pieces I'd written about our national policy of retribution towards troubled kids. I...

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In Our Toxic Prison System, Is There Room for Hope?

(2) Comments | Posted July 5, 2012 | 11:05 AM

I didn't expect my talk to a class of criminal justice majors at a local community college to be any different from the other workshops, presentations and classes I'd done. The students had read my book for class. I figured I'd talk about the book, about my 10 years teaching...

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Who Are the True 'Failures' in America's School System?

(18) Comments | Posted May 8, 2012 | 2:01 PM

Like most teachers I've gotten some praise from my high school students over my 26 years of teaching -- a lesson "wasn't bad," or a particular class was "sorta interesting." I've even been told that I was a "pretty good teacher." High praise coming from teenagers.


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Keeping Locked-up Kids and Families Connected

(0) Comments | Posted February 1, 2012 | 3:15 PM

Arizona's legislature recently passed a law charging prison visitors a onetime $25 fee as a way to help close the state's $1.6 billion budget deficit. Middle Ground Prison Reform, a prison advocacy group, challenged the law in court as a discriminatory tax, but a county judge upheld its...

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Children of Disappointment and the Season of Hope

(4) Comments | Posted December 22, 2011 | 9:45 AM

If anyone doubts that the young people locked up in our jails are children they should spend some time in one of those prisons around holiday time.

I did just that for the 10 years I taught high school students, some as young as 15, in an adult county jail,...

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Through Her Eyes: The World of At-risk Girls and Young Women

(3) Comments | Posted December 7, 2011 | 3:20 PM

It was like a giant switchboard, the kind you see in 30s and 40s movies, a bevy of operators plugging in a crisscross of wires, taking calls, making connections, a cacophony of chatter.

That image came to me recently as I walked into the lobby of the MassMutual Center in...

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First the Good News: At-risk Kids (May) Get Some Justice

(1) Comments | Posted November 7, 2011 | 4:32 PM

There's been some good news in the media lately for anyone who cares about kids and justice. Federal statistics show that the number of juvenile offenders in jail has dropped by at least 25%. Along those same lines, the New York Times recently reported that New York Chief...

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What Every Reader Asks: 'What's It Got to Do With Me?'

(2) Comments | Posted September 29, 2011 | 12:44 PM

She was pretty upfront about it: she didn't want me there.

"It's not you personally," Marge explained. "It's the book."

Marge was the moderator, researcher, engine, really, of a local reading group. She was good at what she did, I was told, and I believed it. She was pretty thorough...

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