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Mississippi Bans Solitary Confinement For Juveniles

Mississippi Bans Solitary Confinement For Juveniles

As a direct result of a historic class action law suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Mississippi will enter into a consent decree banning the horrific practice of subjecting kids convicted as adults to solitary confinement.

The consent decree is believed to be the first of its kind and will require the state to move such kids out of a brutally violent privately run prison and into a separate stand-alone facility that is operated in accordance with juvenile justice standards and not the more punitive adult correctional standards.

The conditions the children in Mississippi are subjected to are truly outrageous. Currently children as young as 13 who have been tried and convicted as adults in Mississippi are sent to the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (WGYCF), operated by GEO Group, Inc., the nation’s second largest for-profit prison corporation.

As described in the lawsuit, GEO staff routinely peddled drugs to the teenagers in their custody, beat and sexually exploited them. They also failed to protect them from violence at the hands of older, predatory prisoners and were at times complicit in brutal attacks on juvenile prisoners.

Solitary confinement was also routinely used as a form of punishment. While in solitary the youth are held in almost complete isolation and sensory deprivation with virtually no human contact. They are denied all visits, telephone calls and fail from their families. If prison staff identify a child as suicidal–which the lawsuit shows they often do with punitive motives–that child is stripped naked except for a paper gown and denied a mattress.

The conditions described in the lawsuit should make every American sick. Since the 1990s our justice system has moved toward making it easier to try children as adults and to incarcerate them in the same harsh and dangerous conditions as adults.

The consent decree will bring an end to this unconscionable practice in Mississippi, but not the other states where children are subjected to this kind of horrific abuse. Kudos to the ACLU and the SPLC for their tireless advocacy on behalf of this country’s most vulnerable.

Related Stories:

Why Is Maryland Spending 100 Million To Lock Up Its Youth?

Trafficking Victim or Criminal? Depends On Your Age

In Alabama Juveniles Can Chose Church Or Jail

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Photo from Vectorportal via flickr.

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30 comments

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7:39AM PDT on Jun 30, 2012

Berny P: How dare you speak for anyone other than yourself! I was severely sexually assaulted as a youth. The person who did that to me is still in prison. Hardly a day goes by where I don't hope that he is being treated better than he treated me. I have chosen forgiveness as my path to recovery, and I have not regretted that for over 15 years. Forgiveness has allowed me to release my anger and put this dark time behind me. Forgiveness DOES NOT mean that I ameliorate any of this criminal's responsibility for his actions. It DOES mean that I recognize that every person is a human being and we are all not the sum total of the worst thing we have ever done. We are all worthy of redemption and everyone should be afforded that chance even if it is from behind the walls of a prison. This ideology does not make me a fool or a 'sucker'. It does not excuse the criminal who did these things to me. It makes me a better person than the person who hurt me. It makes me human. It makes me ethical, compassionate and (I hope.) a decent, moral person.

1:20AM PST on Mar 4, 2012

Thanks for the article.

7:54AM PST on Mar 2, 2012

Finally!

6:19AM PST on Mar 2, 2012

They deserve far worse than solitary.

I guess unless you have been a victim of these young people you will never understand.

It is by all means not a pretty sight, violent is more like it and they don't care absolutely about anything other than showing off to their friends as to how bad they can be and even after that their friends don't wan't anything to do with them.

There not sick, they just don't care about anything.

5:07AM PST on Mar 2, 2012

I hope they get the help they deserve.

4:55AM PST on Mar 2, 2012

I am very happy this law was passed. It's a shame it was needed, but Mississippi passing it? Who would have thought?

11:55PM PST on Mar 1, 2012

These kids have enough problems with their lives....thank goodness they don't have to go into solitary!

6:59PM PST on Mar 1, 2012

Thank you for this

6:26PM PST on Mar 1, 2012

Why is it that so many people cannot see that if it is in an institutions best (financial) interests to incarcerate someone there will be ample evidence to keep them incarcerated? That's why jails/prisons were in government control to begin with - there can ALWAYS be a reason to keep someone in prison. Are human rights not considered at all anymore?

4:28PM PST on Mar 1, 2012

Make that 'kinds', not 'kings'!

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