Dreams from the Monster Factory

A Tale of Prison, Redemption, and One Woman's Fight to Restore Justice to All

About The Book

Dreams from the Monster Factory tells the true story of Sunny Schwartz's extraordinary work in the criminal justice system and how her profound belief in people's ability to change is transforming the San Francisco jails and the criminals incarcerated there. With an immediacy made possible by a twenty-seven-year career, Schwartz immerses the reader in the troubling and complex realities of U.S. jails, the monster factories -- places that foster violence, rage and, ultimately, better criminals. But by working in the monster factories, Schwartz also discovered her dream of a criminal justice system that empowers victims and reforms criminals.

Charismatic and deeply compassionate, Sunny Schwartz grew up on Chicago's south side in the 1960s. She fought with her family, struggled through school and floundered as she tried to make something of herself. Bucking expectations of failure, she applied to a law school that didn't require a college degree, passed the bar and began her life's work in the criminal justice system. Eventually she grew disheartened by the broken, inflexible system, but instead of quitting, she reinvented it, making jail a place that could change people for the better.

In 1997, Sunny launched the Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP), a groundbreaking program for the San Francisco Sheriff 's Department. RSVP, which has cut recidivism for violent rearrests by up to 80 percent, brings together victims and offenders in a unique correctional program that empowers victims and requires offenders to take true responsibility for their actions and eliminate their violent behavior.

Sunny Schwartz's faith in humanity, her compassion and her vision are inspiring. In Dreams from the Monster Factory she goes beyond statistics and sensational portrayals of prison life to offer an intimate, harrowing and revelatory chronicle of crime, punishment and, ultimately, redemption.

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Sunny Schwartz is a twenty-seven-year veteran of the criminal justice system who speaks nationally about the sheriff's innovative in-jail programs, the establishment of the first charter high school in the nation for incarcerated adults, and the successes of restorative justice through the Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP). Her program was the recipient of the prestigious Innovations in Government Award, sponsored by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She lives in San Francisco with her partner, Lauren, and their daughter, Ella. Visit her Web site at www.sunnyschwartz.com.

David Boodell
is a writer, television producer and director who has worked with A&E, the History Channel, Discovery, and other networks. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Liesl, and their dog, Murphy.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (January 6, 2009)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416570103

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Raves and Reviews

"Sunny Schwartz understands accountability, kindness and forgiveness. In her brave and empowering book about people's ability to change, she tells the story of her life and her work with people who are often detested, feared or forgotten and explains how restorative justice can transform these criminals, their victims and our communities." -- Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

"Dreams from the Monster Factory is as gritty as the halls of the San Francisco jail in which it takes place. But rather than being filled with despair and violence, Sunny Schwartz's story is marked by hope and respect. It is truly breathtaking to read about the transformation of the jails that Sunny has led. Putting the principles of restorative justice to work at ground zero of the crime culture, Sunny and her team have created a space where hardened criminals can realize their better selves and begin giving back to the community that they have heretofore only taken from." -- Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship

" I couldn't put this book down. This is to the world of prisons and rehabilitation what Dead Man Walking is to the death penalty. It's gritty and real, simple yet revolutionary, hopeful but realistic. It isn't all happy endings, but there is vision combined with experience that suggests a way out of the morass our society is in. Dreams, yes, but not fantasies." -- Howard Zehr, professor of restorative justice at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University, and author of Changing Lenses

"A powerfully honest and revealing glimpse into a little-known world. Ms. Schwartz captivates the reader with her clear-eyed belief that even violent offenders can change. Her work shows that violent behavior is a choice and our communities can be stronger if each of us -- victims, offenders, citizens -- better understands why we act the way we do. As a survivor of violent crime, I respect Ms. Schwartz's insistence that the penal system is not working. I admire her willingness to follow her heart toward a vision that will make a difference." -- Trisha Meili, author of I Am the Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope and Possibility

" Personal and provocative, Sunny Schwartz's book demanded my wide-eyed attention. Schwartz confronts our skepticism of the prison system and its ability to prevent violence with gripping and authentic stories from her life and her work on a visionary program in the San Francisco jails that has actually reduced recidivism rates for violent crimes. Dreams from the Monster Factory is an inspiring story about justice and forgiveness." -- Terrie M. Williams, author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting

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