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Posts Tagged ‘juvenile detention

The (Literal) Rape of American Children

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The New York Review of Books gives a harrowing continuation of its series on widespread sexual abuse in our “juvenile detention centers”:

Adults who want to have sex with children sometimes look for jobs that will make it easy. They want authority over kids, but no very onerous supervision; they also want positions that will make them seem more trustworthy than their potential accusers. Such considerations have infamously led quite a few pedophiles to sully the priesthood over the years, but the priesthood isn’t for everyone. For some people, moral authority comes less naturally than blunter, more violent kinds.

Ray Brookins worked for the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), the state’s juvenile detention agency. In October 2003, he was hired as head of security at the West Texas State School in Pyote. Like most TYC facilities, it’s a remote place. The land is flat to the horizon, scattered with slowly bobbing oil derricks, and always windy. It’s a long way from the families of most kids confined there, who tend to be urban and poor; a long way from any social services, or even the police. It must have seemed perfect to Brookins—and also to John Paul Hernandez, who was hired as the school’s principal around the same time. Almost immediately, Brookins started pulling students out of their dorms at night, long after curfew, and bringing them to the administration building. When asked why, he said it was for “cleaning.”

What can one say here? We talk of Bagram in Afghanistan or Guantanamo Bay as “legal black holes”, and we feel content, safe in the knowledge that “real American prisoners” have rights. But who has actually seen the inside of a prison?

Surprisingly many, if the statistic bear witness. The Times reported a couple years ago that upwards of 1 in 100 adults was incarcerated – an astounding figure which no other country, not even China, can boast. In absolute numbers, the United States carries more prisoners than any other country, a fact which fails to awe until one considers that China and India each have triple our population. Much of this has to do with draconian drug laws, wherein a man or woman can be put in jail for years for the horrific crime of carrying around some dried-up plant or a bit of white powder – but much of it also has to do with this “lock ‘em and forget ‘em” mentality of dealing with crime, as though the primary focus of our “justice system” ought to be punishment, rather than rehabilitation.

More worrying is how this attitude has shifted toward juvenile prisoners. I don’t want to make too many apologies for our incarcerated juveniles, for the truth is that many of them have committed horrible acts, but to treat them simply as miniature adults represents, I think, a grave injustice.

Particularly when they’re raped by their so-called caretakers, as the above article meticulously and painfully details.

Written by pavanvan

February 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm

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