QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. James was moved to St. Vincents, but he was not able to receive the privileges awarded the other boys. Why didn’t James mind?
2. Harry was a very wealthy man with a great deal of influence. Would the story be different if Harry Wyman did not have money and influence?
3. The Pope asks Harry if he has forgiven James. What is Harry’s response? What factors allowed Harry to support both James and Jamal?
4. Describe the three women in this story. ow How did they affect James?
5. What role did the media play in this story? How does the media impact outcomes?
6. James had very poor eyesight, but his mother did not respond to the notes sent home, so he was unable to read, even though he was very bright. Black children are over represented in special education classes, often invalidly. Would a white child with the same problem have been ignored?
7. James was very polite, quiet and withdrawn. Do you think this was plausible? Why or why not?
8. At the end of the book, did you notice any subtle changes in James’ behavior? Was he starting to be less compliant?
9. Some who have read this book find it spiritual. Was that your experience? Why?
10. St. Vincents was very successful with the young men who came there. From reading this book, what do you think made them so successful?
11. The antagonist in the novel was a victims’ group. The role of victims in the courts has changed a great deal. What should be the role of victims in the justice system?
12. The majority of the boys at St. Vincents were black. In the United States, while minority youth (black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian) represent 31% of the population, they represent over two thirds of those incarcerated. Why do you think that happens?
13. 200,000 juveniles appear in adult courts each year, over 50% of them for non-violent crimes. When, if ever, do you think a juvenile should be tried as an adult?
14. 45 states allow a juvenile court judge to move a youth to adult court. 15 states allow prosecutors to move a youth’s case to adult criminal court, and 29 states have passed legislation requiring that a youth’s case be tried in an adult court based on the age of the youth, the alleged crime or both. How and by whom should such a decision be made?
15. The state center where John was detained was awful, but 10,000 children convicted or accused as adults (81% of them minority) are currently incarcerated in adult facilities where there are no schools and where they are seven times more likely to commit suicide and are often sexually molested. Should minors ever be placed in adult custody?
16. After reading this book, how do you feel about the juvenile justice system in this country?