Criminal Justice System’s Dark Secret: Teenagers In Solitary Confinement

“For each of the past five years, roughly 100,000 juveniles have been held in adult jails and prisons, according to data from the Department of Justice.”

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“Ninety-one percent of the children who are serving time in adult jails and prisons are serving time in jails and prisons for crimes that are not murder, crimes that are not sex crimes,” he said. “Solitary confinement is pretty horrible for anybody, but it’s especially horrible for a child. It is psychological torture.”

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Excerpts, NBCNews

James Stewart, a 17-year-old from Denver who committed suicide while in solitary confinement, had never been to jail before August of 2008.

‘The dark secret of the criminal justice system’

“Data on how many of those young people nationwide are held in solitary confinement isn’t available, but a report published this past October by Human Rights Watch and The American Civil Liberties Union said the New York City Department of Corrections, for example, reported that in fiscal year 2012, 14 percent of all detained adolescents were held in solitary at least once.

“I spoke to kids. They talked about being in a cell alone, the size of a parking space, the size of an elevator,” said Ian Kysel, who authored the HRW/ACLU report. “This is sort of the dark secret of the criminal justice system. … Jails and prisons don’t make available their data on solitary confinement.”

At New York City’s Riker’s Island, the average length of solitary confinement for youths last year was 43 long, 23-hour days, according to Kysel’s report.

The catch-22 of being prosecuted as adults but segregated from the adult prison population because they are still minors is literally making young offenders go out of their minds — and many of them have mental health issues before they are put in isolation, according to the HRW/ACLU report.

Stuart Grassian, a Boston-based psychiatrist who is an expert on solitary confinement, cites CIA research done in the 1950s, which found solitary confinement made American prisoners of war in North Korea go psychotic.

“What was produced by that was a person who was so unhinged, he was confused, disoriented, disheveled,” he told NBC News, “They wouldn’t sometimes know who they were. They couldn’t think.”

Kysel, the author of the report on adolescents in adult prisons, has called for youth solitary confinement to be banned and for other punishments — such as taking away privileges — to be instituted instead. Grassian agrees that this is necessary.

“You have these kids getting more and more out of control, more and more impulsive, more and more emotionally out of control because they’re in solitary.  It’s very likely that’s going to be a permanent impairment in their lives,” he said. “Well, guess what? Ninety-five percent of them are gonna get out back into your community. What do you want them to be like when they get out?”

Full Article Available Here on NBCNews

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2 Responses to Criminal Justice System’s Dark Secret: Teenagers In Solitary Confinement

  1. Pingback: Conservative columnist George Will recently wrote: “Tens of thousands of American prison inmates are kept in prolonged solitary confinement that arguably constitutes torture.” | Sunset Daily

  2. joyce says:

    My daughter was 16 when the court system threw her away to state prison for eight years while her adult co-defendants got a slap on the hand. She has always had mental health issues and impulse control problems. When the sentenced her to adult prison I believe they knew how it would turn out for her. Her first two years where at the maxium security Bedford Hills, near Then she went on the draft to Albion and her life went to hell. She has spent most of her almost three years their in the box. There is no way she will come home unscathed, she has been punched by male and female co’s for filing grievences on them, she has been lied about so they can give her tier three tickets for more time in the box, she has been denied showers, has had her mail held for no good reason, she has been told by medical and mental health that there is nothing wrong with her. I know they are lying. Just recently when she got to order her measley comminsary that they are allowed to get in the box, they toatally ignored her so she did not get to order soap or deoderant again. Last Sunday I went to see her, once again her skin is so bad in spots it looks like she has been burned, her face is all broke out from oils and her hair looks awful many times I have visited and her body oder was bad from not getting showers and having to use state soap and using freezing cold water. She is a mess emotionally and physically, I am discusted that our leaders let these things go on, that every time a grievence gets investigated these same co’s seem to be able to get away with criminal activity. In the end when she comes home if she makes it home, the state will end up paying so much more and they deserve it, her medical problems have gotten so much worse as her mental health I don’t think will ever be right again. Myself I am angry humans let other humans go through this never mind a child. Everyone closes their eyes or says prison is prison. No prison should be about showing someone they did wrong and show them the right way to live, Right now in shu they get degraded, humiliated, talked to like dogs treated like dogs, and abused in every way you can imagine by sadistic, hateful, criminal co’s( not all co”s) maybe they need to be in my daughters spot so they can pay for their crimes against humanity. If these inmates become animals it is because they are driven to the basic need of survival. Those that don’t end up killing themselves.

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