Tens of thousands of children are incarcerated in youth prisons every day; thousands more are also locked up in adult prisons and jails. Imagine a child locked alone in a small empty room for days, weeks, or months. Many youth prisons are called “schools,” but few of these facilities provide neither quality education services nor mental health care or other services children need to heal.
Too many incarcerated youth are subject to solitary confinement — often for 22-24 hours per day — strip searches, shackles, and chemical sprays. These abusive practices cause physical injuries, emotional trauma and psychological harm, and interrupt healthy development. Youth in prison also face physical and sexual violence, compounding the trauma imposed by their isolation and separation from their families, friends and communities.
The juvenile justice system was established to rehabilitate children. Research confirms that locking children up for long periods of time — especially under the harsh conditions that we see all too frequently in the juvenile justice system — causes more harm than good and does little to protect our communities. Children deserve better.
Images: © Richard Ross, juvenile-in-justice.com