Cover image for My soul said to me : an unlikely journey behind the walls of justice
My soul said to me : an unlikely journey behind the walls of justice
Publication Information:
Deerfield Beach, FL : Health Communications, 2003.
Physical Description:
xi, 303 p. ; 22 cm.


Material Type
Shelf Number
Book HV28.R545 A3 2003 1

On Order



In the mid 1980s, Bob Roberts was a successful dentist, stunt flyer and racecar driver. While undergoing marital counseling he was fascinated by the psychological process and pursued his own doctorate in psychology.

Intrigued by the community-building work of M. Scott Peck, Roberts' doctorate research consisted of applying and testing Peck's community-building model in an environment where it seemed only a distant possibility-the prison system. It was there, in Louisiana's Dixon Correctional Institution, where Roberts' life was forever transformed, as would the lives of hundreds of inmates and former offenders. What started as a literacy program evolved into sessions of shared soul searching, group therapy and a celebration of the prisoners' roots.

Although prison officials sabotaged his project, Roberts went on to found Project Return, the most successful aftercare program for former offenders in the country. Aimed at breaking the cycles of addiction, crime and violence, Project Return is the only prisoner rehabilitation program in the country funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

This memoir is Roberts' adventure into his heart and his conscience. It explores the darkest terrain of violence and human suffering, and the brightest terrain of redemption, human dignity and hope. It will leave readers deeply inspired, encouraged and impassioned-in awe of the human capacity to survive and recover from cruelty and hardship.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Part personal memoir and part narrative of a groundbreaking prison literacy program, this book will probably be compared to Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking. While in marital counseling, Roberts, a dentist and stunt flyer, realized he wanted to make dramatic changes in his life. He returned to school to pursue a doctorate in psychology and became interested in the work of self-help gurus including M. Scott Peck. He then helped start a project at Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, La., with 50 prisoners, where he befriended one of the prisoners, who helped him run the program. Roberts writes of being genuinely moved as the prisoners discuss their experiences. The rest of the book outlines Roberts's overwhelmingly positive experiences at the prison until the warden starts sabotaging his efforts. Ultimately, Roberts's life is dramatically transformed by his prison work, and he ends up starting Project Return, a community-based program. Roberts's emotional attachment to his work is evident in his strong, evocative writing. The narrative isn't without flaws: the introspection about middle-age crisis feels tired, for instance. Yet this worthwhile, important book offers a bright, optimistic window onto the often horrific conditions that still exist in prisons today. (Feb.) Forecast: Support from Richard Gere, Tim Robbins, M. Scott Peck, Robert Bly and others should help the book garner media attention. If the book is optioned for the movies, the sales potential will also increase significantly. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



From Chapter 8 - The Never-Ending Story The next spring, while several of us were reminiscing about our times at DCI, Andrew Webster (formerly Psycho) asked Malcolm and me if we had heard anything about Larry Brown and Bubba Sanders. Malcolm said Larry had relapsed on drugs, but had admitted himself to a state recovery center in Mandeville and was, for the time being, doing well. I had kept up with Bubba for about a year after he left Hope House in Baton Rouge. He had been arrested for possession and use of marijuana, but he was also charged with being in a car with another convicted felon. After six months or so in the parish jail, he left Baton Rouge to live with his grandmother near Lafayette. The last time I had spoken with him, he was going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly and had a good sponsor and a decent job. But I had no recent news. The last time I'd called his grandmother's number to check on Bubba, the service had been disconnected with no forwarding number.Since we'd heard nothing from either of them for awhile, we agreed that Malcolm would look up Larry and I would find Bubba. I remembered that Bubba's full name was Hardy Sanders Jr., so I began an Internet search for his father. Mr. Sanders remembered me and was glad to give me Bubba's number. It was about 7:30 in the evening when I called Bubba. His voice sounded terrible as he asked me to hang on while he took the cordless phone outside so we could talk in private. He began crying in disbelief that I had called on this of all nights, the night he intended to commit suicide by overdosing on cocaine. The woman he lived with was a cocaine dealer from whom he could get enough dope to kill himself. He explained that he had fallen deep into debt to someone whom he could not repay. Apparently, this person said that if Bubba would help him burglarize a tobacco store, he would forgive the debt. In doing so, however, they had set off the alarm and were caught, leaving Bubba to face another prison term of five years. Sobbing, Bubba added, "And, Bob, I think I have AIDS." I asked him why he thought so. He said he had slept with a woman who later told him she was HIV-positive. Bubba had gone to Charity Hospital in Baton Rouge and was tested, but the results would be a month in coming back. He said, "Bob, I go for sentencing next week. There ain't time to find out. An' Bob, I don't want to die in prison. I don't want to die there." That's every prisoner's worst nightmare, I thought. I told Bubba that if he could catch a bus to New Orleans the next morning, I would have him tested at Tulane's blood lab and find out the results the next afternoon. Then he and I made a contract that he would not overdose, at least until after the test result was in. The next morning, his father drove him down for the test. Afterward, I took them to lunch and Bubba filled me in on events surrounding the burglary charge.Bubba had already confessed to the crime. All that remained was to get the ju Excerpted from My Soul Said to Me: An Unlikely Journey Behind the Walls of Justice by Robert E. Roberts, Robert Roberts All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.