Abuse of Minors in Adult US Prisons
by Stephen Lendman
Among developed countries, American and Israeli prisons (for persecuted Palestinians) are most abusive. Torture and other forms of mistreatment are commonplace – including against minors.
A new Huffington Post report titled “Cruel and All-Too-Usual: A Terrifying Glimpse into Life in Prison – As a Kid” discusses how minors are mistreated in America’s gulag prison system. Long-lasting scars remain after release.
A 17-year-old girl called Jamie, to conceal her identity, was sentenced to two concurrent six-month terms on assault and property destruction convictions for allegedly throwing a brick at a roommate, then banging it on the front door of their house to get in.
She denied the assault. Police admitted the brick may not have hit anyone. She admitted being “mad” and “trying to get back in the house.”
At most, perhaps a reprimand was warranted on minor misdemeanor charges – never imprisonment. Only in American poor communities (most often of color) and Israeli prisons for Palestinians among developed countries are kids incarcerated and abused for insignificant incidents, minor offenses or trumped up charges.
In wealthy US areas, kids committing misdemeanors either get off scot-free or receive community service sentences – virtually never imprisonment.
Jamie is from inner-city Detroit. In January 2012, she was imprisoned in a facility with hard-core criminals – convicted of crimes like first-degree homicide.
She had three adult cellmates. One “did drugs she had never been around before,” said Huff Post. “In this environment, (she) found it hard to stay out of trouble.”
Hardened criminals influenced her behavior. Prison authorities claimed she “failed in every instance” to meet good behavior standards.
Prison records later obtained showed her only offenses were disobeying an order and giving a guard an “intimidating look (true or false).”
She was resentenced to up to five years for her original alleged misdemeanor not warranting any prison time. It bears repeating. Only in America and Israel among developed countries are these practices commonplace.
After sentencing, Jamie snapped. She began yelling loudly. She threatened suicide. Officers in gas masks forcibly took her outside her cell while she begged them to put her down.
A spit-guard was put on her face. Her arms, legs and chest were painfully restrained – a practice known as five-point restraint.
She became more agitated. Officers did nothing to calm her or explain what they did. She was coughing and crying to no avail. She pleaded with guards, saying “I’m like only 17. You can’t do this to me.”
Under restraint, she was left tied to a bed for nearly 24 hours. Another time, restrained for days, she urinated on herself. “I had dreams about being held down. Nobody can hear me or nothing,” she said.
She never was suicidal until imprisoned. Prison logs said she tried hanging herself with socks tied around her neck. She cut herself with wall scrapings, rocks and a comb.
She ate paint chips. She scratched an arm wound with empty mayonnaise packets. She allegedly told a staff member she hoped it would get infected, amputated and sent to her parents.
Sixteen-year-old Kalief Browder was jailed at New York’s notorious Rikers Island – falsely accused of stealing a backpack. During three years of imprisonment before charges were dismissed, he was brutally assaulted by inmates and guards.
He never stood trial or was found guilty of any crime. He was treated like an adult hardened criminal. He was isolated in solitary confinement for two nearly years. In June he committed suicide.
Major media reported his story – symbolic of a broken criminal justice system, they said. His case got rare Justice Department attention. He’s one of countless minors and adults mistreated under horrific US gulag conditions.
Huff Post obtained videos showing abuse of minors in adult prisons. They show them “restrained, held in solitary confinement, forcibly extracted from their cells, tasered, and allegedly sexually assaulted…accepted practices inside adult correctional institutions.”
ACLU National Prison Project senior counsel Amy Fettig said America’s “adult (prison) system is not designed in any way, shape or form to treat children, to rehabilitate children, or to recognize that children are different than adults.”
Racial discrimination is rife. Blacks and Latinos comprise around two-third of inmates. The ratio of black to white kids incarcerated is almost 10 to one. From 2010 to 2012 in Chicago, of 257 children prosecuted as adults, only one was white.
Decisions are made unrelated to justice or public safety. Countries like China, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti banned prosecuting children as adults. Britain and Germany allow their sentencing – but not imprisonment.
Since the 1970s, US prisons began using tactical teams of three to five guards equipped with tasers, electric shields and chemical sprays to subdue prisoners, including in cases of minor infractions. Some facilities use fire hoses and flash-bang grenades. Connecticut guards at times use attack dogs.
Inmates forcibly removed from cells are usually beaten and painfully restrained. Corrections consultant Steve Martin says virtually anything can be cause for abusive treatment.
In some facilities, “staff like to do cell extractions because it’s an excuse to kick the crap out of inmates,” according to correctional consultant Jeffrey Schwartz. “There is no question that many (incidents) are unnecessary and avoidable.”
Children and adolescents are less able to cope with prison abuse than adults. Studies show extreme stress and trauma inflicts permanent damage on bodies and minds.
One study showed children experiencing traumatic physical and/or sexual abuse had 20-year shorter life expectancies than non-abused counterparts.
Another one revealed minors imprisoned with adults “were 77 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent felony than those who were sent to juvenile institutions,” Huff Post explained.
Minors can be punished for commonplace youthful indiscretions, not understanding prison rules, or being unable to cope with anxiety under harsh prison conditions.
Rarely do major media report what demands featuring. America’s gulag prison system is the world’s largest, one of its cruelest.
Wrongfully imprisoning minors and brutalizing them unjustly is a clear 8th Amendment violation prohibiting “cruel and unusual punishments.” In US prisons, it’s standard practice – for minors and adults alike.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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