Monday, August 31, 2009

New York's Abuse of Incarcerated Youth Exposed

The US Justice Department issued a report this month stating that "[s]taff at [New York's Juvenile Detention Facilities] routinely used uncontrolled, unsafe applications of force, departing from generally accepted standards" when dealing with incarcerated youth. Now, the attention turns to Governor Paterson and whether his efforts to fix these problems will be bold enough and quick enough to prevent the abuse from harming more of our children.

Horrifying Abuses

The level of abuse suffered by our children in the four juvenile detention facilities of New York State is beyond anything that we should accept in a modern society, and the abuse reflects the lack of oversight in the system as well as the lack of respect for the rights of those who are incarcerated.

There was one year in one facility (a facility that housed only 50 youth) in which 698 individual "takedowns" (throwing children to the ground and holding them down in a face-down position) of youth occurred, and 123 injuries were sustained by those youth. These facilities house children ages 16 and under and are the wrong places for staff who enjoy inflicting pain on others.

One 15 year old boy from the Bronx was killed in a takedown in 2006, and while his death was ruled a homicide, a grand jury chose not to indict those that killed the boy.

Reasons given by the staff for the takedowns were as flimsy as the taking of an extra cookie during a meal, glaring at a detention facility guard, laughing, and placing sugar in one's own orange juice. The takedown that resulted from the glaring incident caused a broken collar bone.

Suggested Response from the New York Daily News

The New York Daily News offered very specific suggestions with regard to how our State should respond to the new awareness of just how poorly our juvenile detention center. At Manhattan Viewpoint, we hope that Governor Paterson and the State Legislature in Albany will follow the sentiments of the New York Daily News and begin to address the shocking abuses occurring regularly in our juvenile facilities. As the New York Daily News stated on August 28:

The abuses administered routinely in the state's youth lockups are beyond shocking. They are shamefully entrenched and demand an immediate fix. Before one more inmate has his or her teeth knocked out, before one more mentally ill teen is left in his or her own wastes:

Family Court judges must refuse to send additional teenagers into these snakepits.
Governor Paterson must transfer the facilities' 250 residents into secure, therapeutic custody elsewhere.
Gladys Carrion, the well-meaning commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services, must make sweeping reforms - or get out.
The Legislature must empower Carrion or her successor to upgrade and train personnel and to fire those who use excessive force on residents.

No comments:

Post a Comment