BookLife Talks with Sharron Grodzinsky
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'Waiting on the Outside'
What inspired you to write Waiting on the Outside?
For years, I never spoke about the fact that my son was in prison. I decided to tell the whole story to unburden myself of the weight I carried. There are 2.4 million people incarcerated in America. The number of family members and friends who are affected by incarceration is in the multiple millions. I wanted those people to know they were not alone.
Shortly after I wrote the book, my husband and I took a trip around the country. As I spoke with people I met, I found that each had a family member who had a problem that could put them behind bars, if they were not there already. The stories were all similar. The heartbreak and sorrow they felt was profound. After they read my book, they expressed their gratitude for bringing this problem to light.
Why or how do you think this book is particularly relevant now?
Waiting on the Outside addresses some of the most serious problems our country faces today. First, most of the revenue in our penal system is spent warehousing people instead of rehabilitating them. What's really needed is addiction treatments, better mental healthcare management, reduction of solitary confinement, and reentry and rehabilitation programs that offer solutions for inmates when they're released.
If you incarcerate someone for years, then let them out without any training, skills, jobs, housing or transportation, what can you expect from them? According to the National Institute of Justice, two-thirds of those released reoffend within three years. Within five years, three-quarters are rearrested. Recidivism is a national disgrace. And taxpayers end up bearing this cost.
White supremacy is a problem both in and out of prisons. However, prisons facilitate the white supremacist gangs, as well as other racially based gangs. Inmates band together in brotherhood for protection, a family feeling, and to conduct illegal business within the prison system.
How does Waiting on the Outside relate to your novel, Surviving La Bestia?
My novel, Surviving La Bestia, is closely related to Waiting on the Outside and addresses the issue of immigration. It tells the story of two children who flee violence in their native Honduras via the "death train," or La Bestia [the Beast].
What is the one thing you most want to tell readers, other writers, booksellers, publishers, or agents about you or your book?
I'm currently working on two projects. The first is in partnership with the founder and C.E.O. of Hope for Prisoners, Jon Ponder, who President Trump recently honored at this year's National Day of Prayer for his contributions in the areas of reentry and rehabilitation. The second is a mystery set in Coronado, a complete departure from my usual topics.