Criminal turned criminologist John Irwin dies

By , January 7, 2010 7:46 am

John Irwin had the usual choice when he got out of Soledad Prison in 1957 after a five-year stretch for armed robbery: Do more crime, or remake his life.

He chose rebirth – with a passion.

Over the next half century, Mr. Irwin became one of the nation's foremost advocates for compassionate reform of the prison system, the author of six heralded books dissecting criminal justice, and a tenured sociology professor at San Francisco State University.

When he died at 80 at his San Francisco home of liver and kidney failure Sunday, he had one final book nearly ready for print, an autobiography he called “Rogue.”

The term, in its kindest but most activist meaning, fit him perfectly, his family, friends and colleagues said.

“John was fearless about being honest about the realities of crime and justice,” said Naneen Karraker, a national advocate for prison reform. “He had the courage to see things differently from the common way.

“He was an uncommon man.”

via Criminal turned criminologist John Irwin dies.

One Response to “Criminal turned criminologist John Irwin dies”

  1. Verana Tamara Wallis says:

    My most memorable professor has died!
    I am in such pain–what a stellar individual he was, my heart goes out to his family –his lovely wife and children. He was such an amazing individual…so few people evolve, but Dr. Irwin did; he was the epitome of the renaissance man. America, Canada, the world is so much less now that his voice has been silenced.
    John Irwin had such a profound effect on me… I always meant to tell him… but never got around to it. I graduated from SFSU in 1991.
    I spoke to my uncle about him less than two months ago. My uncle was a Bank robber and turned his life around, although not as impressively as Dr. Irwin- of him …I looked in my computer documents and found I have the file entitled “John Irwin” dated Jan. 2, 2010 this was the first time I ever looked him up on the internet…
    I just found out he died the very next day…Coincidence? perhaps… there are those who say there are no coincidences….

    Bless you John Irwin, I shall remember you always.
    Great thinker, Great Scientist, Great Criminologist, great human being….. leading voices of prison reform…I am sorry I did not tell you how much you affected me.

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