By Sabine Heinlein
University of California Press, March 2013
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? How does it feel to bear the shame of having killed someone?
Sabine Heinlein spent more than two years at the Fortune Society’s Castle, a prominent halfway house in West Harlem, shadowing her book’s three 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. Heinlein’s 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. Among Murderers asks what constitutes successful rehabilitation and how one faces the prospect of rejoining society with the guilt and shame of having taken taken another person’s life.