“Mind Blowing Because I’m a Kid”

This was reblogged from SolitaryWatch.

The following comes from Joe (pseudonym), a minor who has been incarcerated since last summer, held in solitary confinement for over six months. In his letter to Solitary Watch, he describes his life on 23-hour-a-day lockdown in a jail where he has no access to any rehabilitation or other programs, classes or church. He recounts in detail in his letter the conditions to which he is exposed on a daily basis; the jail is windowless, without sunlight or fresh air. Joe talks about a “waiver,” by which, in this case, he means going before a judge, who, considering his age, will order he be treated as a minor.

Following Joe’s letter is an “inventory of grievances” he prepared regarding the conditions he endures. His list states that, in this jail, which he describes as hot and filthy, he is on some days denied his hour out, refused any sort of mental health services, and is provided with no opportunities for outside recreation. He writes, ”Experiences like this, I promise you, I am never locking up an animal or anything living in a box, tank, or cage.” –Lisa Dawson

Waking up almost every day at around 2 or 3 am, the first thing I see is the wall my bed is connected to. When I see this, I sigh and say, “I’m still here.” Another day, is the only way I can put this without actually trying to calculate my last days. Oh, by the way, it’s 23/1 lockdown where I am housed. That’s the best they have for juveniles. I’ve been on lockdown for 7-1/2 months and counting. How do I do it? The strength of my almighty Father God, the support from my loved ones, and the determination to become something great. I can help other kids in my position.

I don’t get any programs, school classes, or church, because I’m 17. Crazy, right? Well if you think that’s crazy, check this out: the location in the jail I am housed in, there’s no sunlight, no windows, no fresh air, and no outside rec. The only times I get to see the sun is on court dates (for about 10 minutes, altogether).
It’s funny, because a lot of adults, grown men, who come in and out of jail/prison ask me, a 17 year old kid, how I stay sane without my natural resources and on lockdown. “It is what it is,” is usually what I tell them.

Every day I’m in here, I try to plan my hour out of the cell: who am I going to call, how long will the call be, how long can I walk around, and how long will my shower take. Even when I get back to my cell, I plan: how long should I read this book, how long should I study the books a friend gave me, how long should I spend writing my life stories, how long will I draw, etc. If you try to read all day, you’re setting yourself up for failure, because once you’ve finished the book(s), you have absolutely nothing to keep you occupied, and you slowly lose your mind. Many people would say sleep, ha! You can only sleep so much, and if you do sleep all day, the next day is going to be a long 23 hours for you.

It’s amazing how the jail is getting away with this. Mind blowing, really, because I’m a kid, surviving without my daily needs ever day, while some adults can’t even do this for one week.

Read the rest here.

National interfaith anti-torture group supports Montana State House bill to limit solitary confinement of juveniles and the mentally ill

February 22, 2013

CONTACT: Samantha Friedman, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications
Office: (202) 265-3000 or cell: (202) 215-9260 or samantha@rabinowitz-dorf.com

National interfaith anti-torture group supports Montana State House bill to limit solitary confinement of juveniles and the mentally ill
Interfaith group’s feedback comes in advance of today’s hearing on the bill

WASHINGTON – A national interfaith anti-torture group today sent a letter to Montana House Judiciary Committee Chairman Krayton Kerns and other members of the committee, in support of a bill that would restrict the use of long-term solitary confinement in Montana state prison facilities.  On behalf of its more than 300 diverse faith-based organizational members across the United States, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture issued its support for the bill’s passage.

“The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, whose members represent all faith traditions, care deeply about eliminating prolonged solitary confinement. Research consistently demonstrates that the psychological effects, particularly among children and people with mental illness, are devastating.  We strongly support the passage of House Bill 536, particularly its provisions to end the use of solitary confinement of youth under 18, inmates with serious mental illness, and other prisoners needing special consideration, as well as its support for limiting long-term solitary confinement for all inmates,” said Laura Markle Downton, director of U.S. prisons policy and program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

“The bill also includes a critical public safety measure by limiting the use of solitary confinement for prisoners who are within one year of their release.  As people of faith, we recognize that rehabilitation must include preparation for successful re-entry following incarceration.  Because of the devastating psychological and social impacts of prolonged solitary confinement, re-entry is significantly undermined by an inmate’s immediate release from solitary confinement into the community.”

NRCAT’s support of the bill comes in advance of a hearing scheduled for today, Friday, February 22, convened by the House Judiciary Committee, which will include discussion of House Bill 536, known as the “Montana Solitary Confinement Act.”  The hearing will be live-streamed online at http://leg.mt.gov/css/Video-and-Audio/live.asp?strView_id=84.  A vote on the bill is expected as early as Monday, February 25.

“Prolonged solitary confinement desecrates a person’s inherent dignity, denies the essential human need for community, and impedes genuine rehabilitation,” said Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.  “The damage of solitary confinement upon the most vulnerable including juveniles and the mentally ill is a violation of human dignity and is of grave concern to the faith community.  House Bill 536 presents Montana with a critical opportunity to lead the way nationally in increasing access to rehabilitation and reducing harm.”

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture advocates for limiting the use of solitary confinement in U.S. federal and state prisons.  More information on NRCAT’s work in the field of solitary confinement is available at nrcat.org, as is the organization’s short documentary film on solitary confinement.  In 2010, NRCAT partnered with a diverse coalition of organizations in Maine to push for the successful passage of a resolve by the state legislature requiring the Department of Corrections to review its solitary confinement policies and procedures.  As a result of the review and its recommendations, the solitary confinement population in Maine has been reduced by more than 70 percent.  Momentum to halt the use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons continues to build nationally, with the first-ever Congressional hearing on the use of prolonged solitary confinement convened last June by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.  Following the hearing, in February of this year, the Federal Bureau of Prisons agreed to the first-ever independent and comprehensive assessment of its use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. federal prisons.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a membership organization committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Since its formation in January 2006, more than 320 religious organizations have joined NRCAT, including representatives from the Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline Protestant, Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Buddhist, and Sikh communities. Members include national denominations and faith groups, regional organizations and local congregations.


Sending juveniles to prison for life unconstitutional, federal judge rules

From: Detroit Free Press:
Jan. 30th 2013
By L.L. Brasier, Detroit Free Pree Staff Writer

A federal judge ruled unconstitutional Michigan laws that send juveniles convicted of murder to prison for life and ordered that the 350 juvenile lifers in the state have a chance at parole.

In issuing his ruling this afternoon, Judge John Corbett O’Meara noted the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that juveniles can’t be treated as adults, and as such, can’t be sentenced as adults to life behind bars.

The Michigan Court of Appeals, in a ruling late last year, said the decision did not apply retroactively.

O’Meara disagreed.

“Indeed, if there ever was a legal rule that should, as a matter of law and morality be given retroactive effect, it is the rule announced (by the U.S. Supreme Court), O’Meara wrote. “To hold otherwise would allow the state to impose unconstitutional punishment on some persons but not on others, an intolerable miscarriage of justice.”

Attorney Deborah Labelle, who filed a lawsuit against the state in November 2010 on behalf of several prisoners who were sentenced as juveniles, hailed the decision.

“It is a big win for us,” she said. “As of this moment, every juvenile and those convicted as juveniles serving life are parolable.”

O’Meara ordered that Labelle submit a motion describing the criteria that the parole board will have to follow in determining parole for those behind bars. That motion is due March 1.

The issue is still being litigated in state courts, and it’s unlikely any juvenile lifers will be re-sentenced soon. The appellate court’s decision that the ruling does not apply to current prisoners is being challenged in the Michigan Supreme Court.

A spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said his office is reviewing the decision and considering options for appeal.

Read the rest here:

Judge Convicted in Pennsylvania Kids-for-Cash Scheme, Faces Long Prison Term and Class Action Lawsuit

From: DemocracyNow:
Feb 22nd, 2011

A federal jury has found a former Pennsylvania judge guilty of participating in a so-called “kids for cash” scheme, in which he received money in exchange for sending juvenile offenders to for-profit youth jails over the years. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella, Jr., was convicted Friday of accepting bribes and kickbacks for putting juveniles into detention centers operated by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western Pennsylvania Child Care. Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, are said to have received $2.6 million for their efforts.

Ciavarella faces a maximum sentence of 157 years in prison, in addition to a class action lawsuit on behalf of the youths’ families. For more on this story, we are joined by Marsha Levick of the Juvenile Law Center and to Sandy Fonzo, who believes her son’s suicide was related to his treatment by Ciavarella.

Read the rest here.

Former Judge Is on Trial in ‘Cash for Kids’ Scheme

New York Times
By Jon Hurdle and Sabrina Tavernise
February 8, 2011

SCRANTON, Pa. — A former Pennsylvania judge went on trial in federal court on Tuesday, charged with racketeering, bribery and extortion in what prosecutors say was a $2.8 million scheme to send juvenile delinquents to privately run prisons.

The case against the judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., who presided in Luzerne County, drew national attention for what legal experts say is a dangerous gap in the juvenile justice systems of many states — children appearing in court without lawyers.

Read the rest here.

No decision reached on closing a male juvenile facility

But panel leans toward shutting Ethan Allen
Mike Johnson of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: June 21, 2010

Madison – A governor-appointed committee charged with recommending whether to close one of the state’s two male juvenile correctional facilities to help erase a budget deficit could not come to an agreement on whether to close Ethan Allen or Lincoln Hills schools.

The sentiment of the 11-member committee was to recommend closing Ethan Allen in the Town of Delafield in Waukesha County and consolidate it with Lincoln Hills. But the panel fell one vote short of the six-vote majority needed to send the recommendation on to Gov. Jim Doyle and Department of Corrections Secretary Rick Raemisch.

The vote to close Ethan Allen was 5-3.

A similar vote to recommend shuttering Lincoln Hills in northern Wisconsin and combine operations at Ethan Allen failed. Only three people voted in favor of that option.

Three Circuit Court judges who serve on the Governor’s Juvenile Corrections Review Committee abstained from the vote. Two of the judges, Mary Triggiano of Milwaukee County Circuit Court and Neal Nielsen of Vilas County Circuit Court, were not at the meeting, but Judge Glenn Yamahiro, of Milwaukee County, said he was authorized to abstain on their behalf. Yamahiro told committee co-chairs Jim Moeser and Greg Lewis that the three thought they could offer advice to the panel, but that the decision on whether to shutter a juvenile facility should be left to other branches of the government.

The five members who voted to recommend the closure of Ethan Allen said they thought Lincoln Hills was a better-operated facility and the staff there was working together more cohesively.

“My gut feeling is staff at Lincoln are pulling on the same end of the rope,” said committee member John Burmaster, a retired educator from Gleason.

But two committee members, the Rev. Greg Lewis of St. Gabriel’s Church, Milwaukee, and Bishop Charles McClelland of Word of Hope Ministries, Milwaukee, said Ethan Allen should remain open because about 70% of the juveniles incarcerated at Ethan Allen and Lincoln Hills are from southeast Wisconsin.

Closing Ethan Allen would make it difficult for family members of those incarcerated to make the 2 1/2-hour trip to Lincoln Hills for visits.

Family visits are important to rehabilitation efforts, they said.

“One thing we can’t do is move that 70% of the population to Lincoln Hills,” said Lewis, the committee’s co-chair.

But those who supported closing Ethan Allen said family visits, which are low at both sites, should be given less weight in the decision-making process.

The state Division of Juvenile Corrections is facing a $25 million budget deficit over the next two years and is looking for ways to cut spending. The state could save between $13 million and $14 million by closing one of the male juvenile facilities.

State officials say consolidating the male juvenile detention centers must be explored because the male youth arrest rate is down 22% since 2001 and court-ordered commitments have plummeted. The average daily population fell by about 35% between 2001 and 2008, according to department statistics.

Shuttering one of the facilities would put some people out of work, although the exact number is not known. Ethan Allen employs 232 people, while Lincoln Hills employs 193. State officials said Monday that about 100 workers would need to be added to one of the facilities if the other were to close.

Doyle formed the committee in April, and it has been reviewing the male juvenile institutions over the last two months, including visiting each site.

The panel, which concluded that the state cannot afford to keep both institutions open, plans to issue a final report to Raemisch, who is expected to forward it to Doyle by the end of the month.

After the meeting, Raemisch said the state probably will have to make a decision soon on what to do with the juvenile institutions. Population numbers continue to drop and something must be done because of the projected deficit, he said.

Raemisch said the 5-3 vote to close Ethan Allen was something state officials will take into consideration as they move forward.

After the meeting, Moeser said closing one of the facilities is still on the table.

“I think you saw strong support that we can’t maintain both of them, either fiscally or programmatically,” he said.

Costs for housing juveniles have risen from about $187 a day in 2005 to $270 this year, according to the department.

Daniels: Reports Of Juvenile Prison Abuse ‘Out Of Date’

May 20, 2010

The governor on Thursday downplayed a scathing federal report calling on Indiana to address widespread abuses within its juvenile correction facilities.

A Jan. 29 letter and report from U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez to Gov. Mitch Daniels details troubles within the former Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility, including a mentally ill inmate left dirty and pulling out her hair and male guards having sex with and performing strip searches on young female inmates, 6News’ Joanna Massee reported.

The letter follows a civil rights investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2008 that documented inadequate abuse investigations, excessive use of force and isolation, inadequate mental health care and inadequate special education services. The investigation into allegations of abuse began in 2004.

Daniels initially declined to comment on the report, but when asked about the issue at a jobs announcement on Thursday, he told Massee the report was “hopelessly out of date.”

“The problems there (the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility) — which were very severe and obviously needed attention — are many years old,” Daniels said. “They’re doing their job and tidying up what is really a six- or eight-year-old inquiry.

“When the report was originally released, Daniels volunteered to make improvements at all the facilities and to provide reports resulting from a partnership with the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force, an agency charged with monitoring the expected improvements.

The Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility was closed in 2009, and female inmates were moved to the new Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility.

A statement from the Indiana Department of Correction called it “a much different facility than its predecessor in Indianapolis,” but a former employee told 6News that conditions for inmates worsened after the move.

“I do not think any child inside Madison Juvenile is safe,” the former employee, who did not want to be identified, told Massee.

6News was not allowed inside the Madison facility. 

More: Share your experiences with the state’s juvenile justice system

State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, who sits on the Senate Corrections Committee, said he is concerned about the allegations of abuse at the state’s juvenile correction facilities.

“When we have people in our custody, under our care, we have a responsibility and a duty, under our constitution, to take care of their wellbeing,” he said.

Delph said that the Department of Correction has not brought any issues involving juvenile justice to his attention. He said he has requested a meeting with the agency.

Correction Commissioner Edwin Buss declined requests to be interviewed.

Link to Article Here