By: Matthew Jandrisavitz
While society should be protected from youth offenders, these juvenile law breakers should not be exposed to violence or inhumane treatment while they are paying their debts to society in juvenile detention centers. However, this is in fact the case. Often, such violence comes from other juvenile detainees, but sometimes it may come at the hands of correctional officers. In the 1990’s, studies were done that showed widespread violence and abuse throughout juvenile detention facilities. Examples of such violence include physical and sexual abuse and excessive use of force and restraint by corrections officers. Since these youths are isolated from their families, and are unaware of how to report such crimes, these actions go unpunished.
Studies reported by the Anne E. Casey foundation show that African American children are almost five times as like to be incarcerated as Caucasian youth, and Latino and American Indiana are between two and three times as likely to be incarcerated. Therefore, the majority who are incarcerated in juvenile facilities and exposed to such violence are minority children.
In her article, Shining a Light: The Need for Independent Oversight in Juvenile Justice Facilities and Reform of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Christine Bella addresses these issues and the barriers preventing youth who are detained in juvenile correctional facilities from reporting these injustices. The youth that are being exposed to such violence, lack the knowledge of how to report the violence that occurs to them. These individuals are easily influenced by others around them. They are subjected to the criticisms of other children within the detention facilities and must refrain from reporting such violence or risk the consequences, including: being exposed to more violence, threats by other children or corrections officers, or being deprived of privileges within the detention centers.
In her article, Bella asks that more oversight be provided in order to prevent these injustices. She acknowledges that most juvenile detention facilities are left to police themselves with minimal oversight from other governmental agencies. She acknowledges that the Department of Justice is one entity that oversees juvenile facilities, yet their resources compared to the large number of juvenile detention facilities’ nationwide leaves many youths unprotected. It is necessary to employ more individuals to actively oversee each of the facilities in the United States and make sure that our youth are not being mistreated. The violence that occurs to youth within juvenile facilities is a big problem within our country and Bella proves a good point that increased oversight over each of these facilities is necessary in order to reduce the problem.
Christine Bella, Note, Shining a Light: The Need For Independent Oversight in the Juvenile Justice Facilities and Reform of the Prison Litigation Act, 27 J. Civ. Rts. & Econ. Dev. 655 (2015).
Anne E. Casey Foundation, Youth In Incarceration in the United States, (February 26, 2013), http://www.aecf.org/m/infographics/aecf-YouthIncarcerationInfographic-2013_(dragged).jpg
Anne E. Casey Foundation, No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration, (October 4, 2011), http://www.aecf.org/resources/no-place-for-kids-full-report/.