More Abuse in Youth Prisons
In two recent blogs posted on the web site for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Dan Macallair called attention to the continued abuse being reported by the news media. He first noted reports dating back to the 19th century in the San Francisco Industrial School, noting that this was an institution created in an era that began with the New York House of Refuge, which was abusive in the extreme and eventually had to be closed. Then he jumped on the proverbial “time machine” and took us to present-day Texas and California – same story, more than a century later. (For a report on Texas see this web site.)
In his latest blog he pointed to a story in the Los Angeles Times about probation officers abusing their authority. There has been a follow-up to that story noting the following: “At least 170 Los Angeles County Probation Department employees have committed misconduct -- including cases of excessive force and abuse -- but have so far escaped punishment because there is not enough staff to mete out discipline, officials said Tuesday.”
Moving about 2500 miles away to the state of New York we find – surprise, surprise – yet another report of abuse inside the walls of youth prisons. The New York Times reported as follows: “New York’s system of juvenile prisons is broken, with young people battling mental illness or addiction held alongside violent offenders in abysmal facilities where they receive little counseling, can be physically abused and rarely get even a basic education, according to a report by a state panel.” Governor Patterson had set up a special panel headed by a much respected criminologist, Jeremy Travis (head of the John Jay School of Criminal Justice) and this past December they issued a scathing report.
In this report it is noted, among other things: the recidivism rate is 89% for boys and 81% for girls; 80% of the prisoners are minorities; and “staff repeatedly used excessive physical force to restrain young people for minor incidents, such as refusing to get dressed or slamming a door. In dozens of cases, these restraints caused severe injuries, including concussions, broken bones, and lost teeth” (p. 15).
The report recommended, among other changes, the following:
· expand alternatives to institutional placement;
· improve the conditions for youth placed in institutional facilities;
· ensure that confined youth transition successfully to their communities upon release;
· reduce the disproportionate confinement of youth of color (p. 16).
There is also an ongoing investigation of rampant abuse within juvenile institutions in the state of Mississippi, dating back to 1996 and so extensive that a special web site has been put together. It has been called the “Mississippi Gulag.”
I’m sure if one were to search the Internet they would find more examples. In fact I just did that and randomly typed in the words “abuse in juvenile institutions” and selected Louisiana (I vaguely recall a report being done) and lo and behold I found this report. I will continue my web search and provide updates in the future.
© 2010, Randall G. Shelden. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced without permission from the author.