Liz Ryan writes: The mass incarceration epidemic in the US has been getting much-deserved attention in recent years. What’s less well known is that some of the worst atrocities in the prison system are being committed against children—the US is the largest jailer of children in the world. With the looming presidential election putting prison reform in the spotlight, now is the time to reverse decades of bad policies.
Putting children in prison has a devastating impact on their families and communities, as well as on young people themselves. There are many examples of these atrocities in action. The Lincoln Hills youth facility in Irma, Wisconsin, is one of the largest youth prisons in the US. In the past 18 months, the facility has been the subject of federal and state investigations stemming from allegations of physical and sexual abuse, as well as guards using intimidation tactics to discourage youth from reporting incidents of pepper spray use, strangulation, and suffocation. In one incident, a boy’s toes were amputated after a staff member slammed a heavy door on his foot.
For the past several years, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, Connecticut’s largest youth prison, has been under multiple investigations by the Office of the Child Advocate for excessive use of isolation, overuse of restraints, inadequate suicide prevention, lack of appropriate staff support and training, inadequate and harmful crisis management, and scant available information on quality, public safety outcomes, and oversight. Last year, the Child Advocate’s office released video of staff members conducting face-down restraints on young people at the training school—which are illegal in Connecticut schools and treatment centers. [Continue reading…]