Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Youth Detention Facilities: Repression and Brutality Concerns

The state of affairs in juvenile detention facilities throughout the nation is in need of serious and immediate assessments based on an alarming investigation developing at state youth detention facilities in Texas.

[Reprinted from the USA Today website – www.usatoday.com/

Injuries of teen inmates probed
By Kevin Johnson

Texas authorities are investigating whether guards at state juvenile detention facilities broke the bones of 60 young offenders as a result of abusive tactics. The newly disclosed review comes amid spreading concerns about the treatment of teenage inmates.

The investigation is part of a criminal inquiry into the Texas Youth Commission, one of the nation's largest juvenile justice systems, with about 4,000 offenders. It was triggered by medical reports over five years showing inmates were treated for suspicious breaks, commonly the humerus, the long bone in the upper arm, according to Dr. Ben Raimer, who oversees commission health care services for the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Investigators suspect the arm injuries occurred when guards yanked offenders' arms upward while the limbs were shackled behind the youths' backs, said Jay Kimbrough, who has been appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to direct the state inquiry.

"There are enough of these injuries to cause us serious concern," Kimbrough said.

The review has grown out of a broader investigation of sexual abuse and physical assaults of inmates and other improper conduct by the staff.

On Monday, four system superintendents were suspended in connection with the overall inquiry. Since March, eight staff members have been arrested, 19 have been fired and termination proceedings are pending for 62 others, state spokesman Jim Hurley said.

National juvenile justice analysts said allegations raised in Texas are symptomatic of recurring troubles in institutions across the country.

In the past seven years, juvenile facilities in 11 states have been the focus of federal reviews for possible civil rights violations, according to Justice Department records.

"State reform schools are hothouses for psychopaths," said Jerome Miller, former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services.

Youth work demands workers who undergo rigorous background checks and are dedicated to:
  • prevention rather than repression,
  • compassion rather than brutality and
  • rehabilitation rather than recidivism.


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