Among Murderers

University of California Press, March 2013
Among Murderers book cover
Gold Medal Winner 2014 IPPY Awards Current Events II (Social Issues / Public Affairs / Ecological / Humanitarian)

This is the biggest triumph of Heinlein’s book: the ability to turn ‘murderers’ into people. She doesn’t shy away from discussing the murders or her own feelings about them, but she manages to do so while keeping us involved and, even more impressively, invested. We don’t want them to end up homeless, or commit crimes and land back in prison; we’re rooting for them, even though they’re murderers.

Jillian Steinhauer, Los Angeles Review of Books

Among Murderers is a remarkable achievement, an eye-opening work of journalistic empathy in the best tradition of Katherine Boo, Ted Conover, and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. This is a triumphantly humane work of reporting and storytelling.

Scott Stossel, The Atlantic

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 another person’s life.

The Orphan Zoo

Thought Catalog Books, 2014
The Orphan Zoo book cover

For her multimedia ebook The Orphan Zoo Sabine Heinlein spent almost a year reporting at “The Farm,” a program for mental patients at the notorious Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens. Originally designed to teach its “members” confidence and skills by caring for animals and plants, the farmland had been fallow for years, the animals were neglected and at dawn drug dealers gathered around the nearby picnic tables. Heinlein interviewed the members of the Farm until the program finally collapsed in the summer of 2013. Augmented with audio snippets, photos and historic newspaper articles, The Orphan Zoo chronicles the repercussions of deinstitutionalization, the administration’s decades-long lack of constructive involvement and the tragic fall of a once-promising program.