The Prison Industrial System Is Traumatizing Our Youth

The Prison Industrial System Is Traumatizing Our Youth

Prison conditions in the United States have the lowest standards compared to other highly developed countries, and the neglect and abuse in the for-profit prisons is worst of all. Most alarming is the situation at Juvenile Detention Centers, where children as young as twelve years old are held.

In 2013, The Huffington Post, in the article “Prisoners for Profit”:reported:

In 2001, an 18-year-old committed to a Texas boot camp operated by one of Slattery’s previous companies, Correctional Services Corp., came down with pneumonia and pleaded to see a doctor as he struggled to breathe. Guards accused the teen of faking it and forced him to do pushups in his own vomit, according to Texas law enforcement reports. After nine days of medical neglect, he died.

This story is not an anomaly, this is what’s happening to children every day in the American prison system. Many of them are being held for low-level crimes and simply for “behaviors,” that are offensive, without any crime having been committed. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, some youths are locked up for non-criminal offenses such as “truancy, running away, violating curfew or being otherwise being “ungovernable.”

They are denied health care, education, and exercise and often placed in solitary confinement as “unmanageable.” Many of these children have undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses which worsen under these conditions. Under these conditions, there is little hope that they will ever become productive citizens. Meanwhile, the corporations charged with their care are showing record profits.

The challenge in enforcing Civil Rights Laws which are often violated at Private Youth Detention Centers is that so many of the abuses go unreported. The parents of incarcerated youth tend to be unsophisticated, and many of the youth have infrequent visitors, so there is little oversight over the children’s living conditions. The lawsuits that arise are usually brought by parents who are more educated and knowledgeable and are actively monitoring their child’s welfare.

When a parent discovers that their child is not be treated properly at a youth detention center, they should call a Civil Rights Lawyer for a consultation. A Civil Rights Lawyer can help them sort out the problems and determine whether they can bring a claim for damages and an injunction (an order to do something.) If only an injunction is being sought, the lawyer should refer the parents to a non-profit organization such as the American Civil Liberties Union with funding to bring claims for injunctive relief. Private attorneys can only handle cases for a contingency fee if damages can be collected, so it is best for them to refer such cases to a non-profit organization.