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Publisher's Summary

LA Times Book Prize finalist

New York Times Book Review Paperback Row

New York Times Books to Watch for in July

Time Best New Books July 2020

Galvanized by her work in our nation's jails, psychiatrist Christine Montross illuminates the human cost of mass incarceration and mental illness.

Dr. Christine Montross has spent her career treating the most severely ill psychiatric patients. Several years ago, she set out to investigate why so many of her patients got caught up in the legal system when discharged from her care - and what happened to them therein. 

Waiting for an Echo is a riveting, rarely seen glimpse into American incarceration. It is also a damning account of policies that have criminalized mental illness, shifting large numbers of people who belong in therapeutic settings into punitive ones. 

The stark world of American prisons is shocking for all who enter it. But Dr. Montross' expertise - the mind in crisis - allowed her to reckon with the human stories behind the bars. A father attempting to weigh the impossible calculus of a plea bargain. A bright young woman whose life is derailed by addiction. Boys in a juvenile detention facility who, desperate for human connection, invent a way to communicate with one another from cell to cell. 

Overextended doctors and correctional officers who strive to provide care and security in environments riddled with danger. In these encounters, Montross finds that while our system of correction routinely makes people with mental illness worse, just as routinely it renders mentally stable people psychiatrically unwell. The system is quite literally maddening. 

Our methods of incarceration take away not only freedom but also selfhood and soundness of mind. In a nation where 95 percent of all inmates are released from prison and return to our communities, this is a practice that punishes us all.

©2020 Christine Montross (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

Waiting for an Echo is an amazing and accurate account of what our criminal legal system has evolved into. Capturing both problems and solutions, Dr. Montross takes us all around the globe to give examples of what works, what doesn’t work, and why. This book should be should be required reading for all judges, district attorneys and correctional officers.” (Susan Burton, Founder and Executive Director of A New Way of Life Reentry Project and author of Becoming Ms. Burton)

"‘What the eye does not see the heart cannot feel’, the saying goes. In this vivid account, Dr. Montross takes us to see close-up her encounters with a tiny percent of the 350,000 mentally ill people in US prisons and jails. What are these anguished souls doing there? They need healing help and a place of safety, not a punishing environment, quick to maintain order with tear gas, beatings, solitary confinement...or with unconscionable neglect. In my 30-plus years of prison work, I've met all too many of these trapped, suffering souls. Let us trust in the goodness of our citizens, that moved by Dr. Montross's vivid witness, eyes will see and hearts will feel to shoulder the urgent reform of a system long in need of radical change.” (Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking)

“This is a tremendously important, transformative book. Dr. Montross poignantly captures the unnecessarily brutal experience of individuals incarcerated in America. As a nation, we should heed her call for meaningful change to restore basic humanity.” (Ellen Gallagher, Department of Homeland Security Attorney and whistleblower)   

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Book review

Really enjoyed the book . Made me think long and hard about our broken system and insensitive and unjust policies . I have recommended this book to several friends . Thank You for opening my eyes to reality. Marguerite Cordelle

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life changing

every new Judge needs to read this book before presiding over juvenile or criminal cases

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Eye Opening

It is impossible to prepare yourself for the hard truths of this book. The Author takes you on a journey of self reflection that requires that you change your persepctive. this book is just soft enough so not to harm but just hard enough to grab your attention.

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Must Read!

This gives a new perspective on how we can change our unjust justice system for the better by treating prisoners with humanity and learning from Scandinavian justice system case studies

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The sad truth

A tough subject but we'll worth the time to hear an expert discussion on our outrageous American Corrective system.

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A well timed book

I found this book to be a well-timed answer to my concerns about understanding and awareness of the current prison system. I have visited a prison and participated in workshop exercises with prisoners and find the overlay of this book matches well with my experience. I have hope that we can solve some of the problems of our penal system. Thank you Dr. Montross

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Excellent and thought-provoking

This book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in issues of criminal justice reform. Montross’s perspective is clear-sighted, nuanced, compassionate, and well-supported by research. I think her insights also touch on some very deep and fundamental truths about human nature, and the questions she raises about our approach to incarceration in America have implications for other issues of justice, equity, health-care access, and more.

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Outstanding

This is an important and timely book. It is very well researched and laid out in an impactful manner. Dr. Montross reads it herself and her voice is perfect for audio! Well done.

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Enlightening

I strongly recommend every American read or listen to this book. Rooted in research and compassion, Dr. Montross provides an invaluable perspective on our prison system.

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Stunning Genuine, Thought Inducing

As a someone who is finishing internship as a mental health professional and long time educator who is actively involved with those who have been impacted by the carceral system I was incredibly moved by this book. It was incredibly impactful and I wish everyone could read it and understand all it encompasses. I wish it were mandatory reading for everyone who seeks to be a judge, prosecutor, warden or correctional officer. I hope to bring change and understanding to people about these truths.
I cannot thank this author enough for this touching and informative work. I hope that is is shared widely. What a remarkable experience reading this was!