600,000 people get released from jails and prisons each year. What happens to these people? While 68% return to incarceration within three years, what obstacles did the remaining 32% successfully hurdle to achieve real freedom? Free uses the stories of six former prisoners to show the challenges that reentry to society brings to the newly freed.

The six people profiled here have varied stories. There is Vicki, convicted of identity theft crimes used to support her drug habit, still battling with meth and heroin addiction. There are Sterling and Arnoldo each imprisoned for gang crimes at a young age. They are now prison buddies trying to support each other in and out of prison. There is Trevor, who carjacked and killed a beloved local businessman while only fourteen. Will his ambition for a better life while in prison help or hurt his chances for a new life outside? Catherine, a victim of abuse, who at thirteen with her twelve-year-old brother killed her father’s live-in girlfriend. Finally, there is Dave, who murdered his bullying father and brother and then set their house on fire. Will any of them still be Free by the end of the book?

There are important lessons here both for those inside and outside prison. Is society setting itself up for chronic recidivism by creating such high hurdles for successful reintegration into society? Does society even want to rehabilitate prisoners? Or do they only seek punishment that does not end at the prison’s door? This is book everyone should read. 4 stars!

Thanks to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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