"The Bone Yard" by Jefferson Bass (William Morrow, 321 pages) is a heart-wrenching "fictional" account of a boys' reformatory in rural Florida run by a group of sadistic perverts.
While the work is a novel, the writing team of Jefferson Bass insist that "it is deeply rooted in the soil of grim realities." (Should the reader be naive enough to believe such abuses are a thing of the distant past, Dr. Bill Bass and Mr. Jon Jefferson, cite the tragic death of Martin Lee Anderson, who died in 2006, just two hours after reporting to a "boot camp" for troubled teens.)
In "The Bone Yard," forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton is called to Florida to investigate a suspected self-inflicted gunshot involving the sister of one of his students. To the experienced eyes of Dr. Brockton, it appears to be a case of murder, not suicide.
While preparing to return to his laboratory at the University of Tennessee, Brockton is given the skull of a pre-teen Caucasian, gender unknown, with the task of trying to have a colleague create a facial reconstruction in hopes of identifying the subject. (Imagine the difficulty he faces trying to get his "carry-on" or as he macabrely puts it, "carrion bag," through airport security!)
When another human skull is unearthed by a wandering hound named Jasper, Brockton suspects foul play and begins an investigation. His team is left a mysterious note pleading that they "Find the Bone Yard."
What they encounter is one of the most horrific cases of child sexual abuse and torture, all done under the guise of "reforming" young lives at an institution charged with "correcting" anti-social behavior. Justified by their belief in the Biblical precept of to "spare the rod is to spoil the child," the brutal guards at North Florida Boys' Reformatory indulge themselves at the expense of their pathetic, young inmates. On the home front, Brockton is still very worried about the fate of his ex-girlfriend Isabella and their child; which only serves to add to his agony as he sees the dire fate of societies' abandoned children.
In their latest work, they challenge their audience to consider the weaknesses of our justice system which boasts the highest per capita prison population in the world. They note that the most accurate predictor of a life of crime, is to have spent time in juvenile detention. Prison is quite effective in creating career criminals.
And yet, there is something that does deter young men from committing anti-social acts and becoming perpetual wards of the state. The surprising finding they cite, that which is far more effective than the most intense efforts of social work, etc., the single most effective deterrent of criminal behavior for young men by far, is profoundly simple - love.
Having a girlfriend is the most successful deterrent of criminal behavior for young men. (It may be a stretch, but what a wonderful thought at that, in this month of February, to think that St. Valentine may be an even greater crime fighter than old J. Edgar Hoover (he certainly was a more attractive character.)
No doubt, this requires observing this celebration of love daily, and not just on February 14th - but who could possibly object to that?)