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Monday, November 15, 2010

Held In Isolation 23 Hours A Day Even Though He Has Not Been Convicted Of A Crime.

For the past six months, George has been living alone in a small cell on the second floor of the Harris County jail awaiting trial on charges of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. Prosecutors say he was one of a group of boys who robbed and assaulted a married couple at gunpoint.

George (not his real name) has been held in isolation 23 hours a day even though he has not been convicted of a crime.

He is 15 years old. (He desperately misses his mom.)

In most cases, teens ages 14 to 16 would be held before trial in the county’s juvenile facility, but George has been certified to stand trial as an adult, which means he is housed across the street at the “Big Jail.”

Liz Ryan, Director of Youth Justice, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., says data shows that juveniles are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than a juvenile detention facility and 19 times more likely to kill themselves in isolation than in general population.

Vogel tells the story of another teen whose case never even went to trial. But before it was dropped, the 16-year-old had spent a year in isolation, which he described as “mental agony.”


“It made me want to act crazy,” he says, “but I knew I wasn’t a crazy person. I know that in their eyes we’re adults and criminals, but at the same time, we’re very young and we haven’t been convicted. We’re just sitting there. You get crazy thoughts, like you want to hurt somebody or hurt yourself.”

Vogel’s investigation found that in 2008, 83 teens in Harris County were “certified” to stand trial as adults. Since in many cases their families cannot afford bail, they remain in jail awaiting trial, where they are often placed in solitary confinement “for their own protection.”

“The treatment of these kids has slipped under the radar,” Vogel writes. “Even the judges who certify them as adults and many county officials seem unaware that this legal determination sends the teens to isolation.” He points out: ”They have not been convicted of anything, yet their treatment — the isolation — is akin to the severe, short-term punishment of adult prisoners who have already been condemned. And there they sit, for months, even years, before ever going to trial.”

The effects of solitary confinement on children–which, as you might imagine, can be profound*

"The treatment of these kids has slipped under the radar,” Vogel writes. “Even the judges who certify them as adults and many county officials seem unaware that this legal determination sends the teens to isolation.” He points out: ”They have not been convicted of anything, yet their treatment — the isolation — is akin to the severe, short-term punishment of adult prisoners who have already been condemned. And there they sit, for months, even years, before ever going to trial.”
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Sister Doherty Counsels juveniles, their parents and those volunteers who want to address their own concerns or issues. She is there to provide emotional support, empathy and compassion.
It can take a toll, of course. Her heart goes out to the juveniles, but she takes great care not to become too attached to them or their parents. And when she has to, Sister Doherty says, she vents through prayer life and support from her religious community and priests.
"I have to leave it in God's hands, and hopefully I can continue doing some good," she says. "Because this is very tragic and sad,
She says she vents to God and puts them in God's hands,or else it would be to much for her, & she says shhe can not give up they need
people to care about them giving them the will to go on.

My source for this was The Arizona Prison Watch.

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