NBC Special Report tonight on juveniles placed in solitary confinement

Friday, March 22, 2013

NBC News is reporting this evening that:

For each of the past five years, roughly 100,000 juveniles have been held in adult jails and prisons, according to data from the Department of Justice.

Defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Montgomery, Ala.-based Equal Justice Initiative, told NBC these youths are getting unfairly harsh treatment for the crimes they commit.

“Ninety-one percent of the children who are serving time in adult jails and prisons are serving time in jails and prisons for crimes that are not murder, crimes that are not sex crimes,” he said. “Solitary confinement is pretty horrible for anybody, but it’s especially horrible for a child. It is psychological torture.”

When juveniles are locked up with adults, they may be placed in protective custody, which means solitary confinement.

Sometimes they commit suicide because they cannot handle solitary.

Human Rights Watch and The American Civil Liberties Union published a report last October that included information collected by the New York City Department of Corrections. For example, in fiscal year 2012, 14 percent of all detained adolescents were held in solitary at least once.

Ian Kysel, the author of the report said,

I spoke to kids. They talked about being in a cell alone, the size of a parking space, the size of an elevator. This is sort of the dark secret of the criminal justice system. … Jails and prisons don’t make available their data on solitary confinement.

According to Kysel, the average length of solitary confinement for youths locked up last year at Ryker’s Island was 43 days.

Solitary confinement is torture. NBC reports,

Stuart Grassian, a Boston-based psychiatrist who is an expert on solitary confinement, cites CIA research done in the 1950s, which found solitary confinement made American prisoners of war in North Korea go psychotic.

“What was produced by that was a person who was so unhinged, he was confused, disoriented, disheveled,” he told NBC News, “They wouldn’t sometimes know who they were. They couldn’t think.”

For more information watch Ted Koppel’s full report tonight on teenagers in solitary confinement on “Rock Center With Brian Williams” Friday, March 22, at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT.

35 Responses to NBC Special Report tonight on juveniles placed in solitary confinement

  1. lurker says:

    Sorry I missed that show. I live in a state that has a history of near neglect (and actual neglect) in juvenile facilitites. I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately with both the Steubenville and the Chardon convictions. The Steubenville rapists were tried and juveniles and I find this appropriate–primarily because they ARE in fact juveniles. But, I have conversed with many who think that this meant that they got of easy.

    The Chardon shooter, on the other hand, was tried as an adult and is bound for adult prison for life. I have no problem with granting the severity of his crime, or locking him away for life. But, what I saw in that final court sentencing appearance was not a normal human being. Apparently that kid has some heavy mental health diagnoses, and it was not difficult to see a profound separation from any knowlege of the severity of his crime, let alone any remorse.

    The facts show us that kids who do poorly in school, and particularly those with mental health diagnoses are disproportionately likely to show up in the juvenile justice system and from there to adult prison.

    Neither adult nor juvenile prisons are well-equipped to meet the needs of eitiher juveniles nor those with mental health issues. And despite the crimes that land kids in those places, our response as rational adults is a tragedy,

    • cielo62 says:

      Lurker- nobody takes mental illness very seriously. I teach elementary school. Every now and then a truly mentally ill child will show up. A few actually scared me. Sociopaths growing up before my eyes. And do they get any type of psychiatric intervention? No. It’s too expensive for 1. The school and 2. The parents of that kid. There are no options. Unless and until that kid hurts or kills someone, there are no resources or recourses. Societally, that is stupid.

      Sent from my iPod

  2. Man’s inhumanity to man.

  3. aussie says:

    Meanwhile, quietly, a judge threw out most of Cristian Fernandez’ “confessions” on the grounds that he was too young to understand his Miranda rights — which never stopped Angela Corey from charging him as an adult, originally.

    He’s been deal with as a juvenile and only on manslaughter. But he’s spent nearly 2 years in jail, a lot of it in solitary, from the age of 12.

    What on earth do they put in the water in Florida?

  4. aussie says:

    Either a kid is a kid or he’s an adult, we can’t have it both ways.

    But the “justice” system seems to think otherwise.

    Kid charged as adult for setting fire to some paper towels


  5. cielo62 says:

    >^..^< creeping along.

  6. Jun says:

    I forget the name of the movie, but it has Brad Pitt in it, and he plays a person, who as a child, was jailed, and during his jail stay was raped and tortured by the guards

    I am not sure how true the movie was, but rape and torture is truly inhumane and in most instances of unarmed combat, a child is at a disadvantage compared to an adult, so these issues need to be addressed

    I know some kids do some immoral things but at the same time, we as a constitution should not allow inhumane treatment

    It’s a tough issue to debate and find an answer

    • gbrbsb says:

      Film is “Sleepers” (1996) written & directed by Barry Levinson and starring two of the greats, Robert De Niro & Dustin Hoffman. Not a true story but was interesting.

      • Aunt Bea says:

        Not a true story?
        Victims of this abuse, rarely become attorneys.

        DeNiro’s character, “The Father”, had to lie under oath.
        Doubt that would ever be fessed up to.

        The age-old question…
        Art imitating life, or life imitating art?

        Creative liberties and all…..

      • gbrbsb says:

        @Aunt Bea

        “Not a true story?”

        I am not sure if you are saying Sleepers is true or not. I think you were quoting from me which on reading it made me realise I should have said the film is not based on a true story as far as the info I have goes but no doubt at least some research would have to be carried out into juvenile prisoners and conditions etc. of the time to make it real so some anecdotical stuff could be true.

      • lurker says:

        The book’s author claimed the story was true, although attempts to confirm that anything like it ever took place came up short.

        A juvie prison, however, is just exactly the sort of position that certain perverts tend to go for.

        • gbrbsb says:

          Your right, there was a controversy about the story’s veracity when it was released mid 90s. I’d forgotten but from what you say it obviously still hasn’t been settled. To me the story didn’t ring true as a whole but no doubt it has some basis as you are basically saying. You’d think by now some reporter would have uncovered who at least one of the subjects and the victims if it was true.

  7. Jun says:


    Here’s an article on Defense Lawyer’s being sued and punished for misrepresenting facts

    • Aunt Bea says:

      If you believe a statement to be true, then it isn’t a lie. Even a liar telling you something can be perceived by anyone to be true.
      Therefore not a lie, therefore not defamation, therefore OK.
      So and so told me….blah, blah, blah…I believed her.

      I have a big problem with anyone being able to confirm/disprove the statement, i.e. the lie, but choosing not to do so. Generally, the police. So one hears a statement, has the capability to confirm as truth, but doesn’t and runs with the statement as truth and repeats it in an official capacity. That is misinformation.

      Just another oops?

      Nah, that’s strategy.

  8. Xena says:

    And I bet prison officials say they place juveniles in solitary confinement for their own protection. (sigh) Why not sentence them to a juvenile facility?

    • Most of them are 15-17 and charged with or convicted of a violent crime.

      • Xena says:

        15-17 are still kids. IMO, they need discipline and educating rather than solitary confinement in a prison for adults.

      • William Walton says:

        Prof: while at the University I met and became friends with a black guy who grew up on the South Side of Chicago. He always stated that as a kid he was living with his Grandmother and was a Punk. The night he graduated from High School, he and friends were driving around the South Side. There was a pistol in the car and T fired it off. Fortunately the bullet hit a tree instead of a person. Unforuntately there was a Chicago Cop parked at the end ot the block who saw the firearm discharge. Therefore T was arrested. Went to trial and the Judge was feeling in a kind mood and gave T and his Grandma one week to come up with a decision that either T join the armed forces or go to prision. T stated that after the week he and Grandma went back to court and he informed the judge that he did not have a decision. The judge gave T and his Grandma 15 minutes in his chambers to either come up with a decision or the judge would come up with one for him. T came out of the judges chambers after a few minuted being led by the ear of his grandma. Judge asked his decision and T replied the military. The judge stated that on his induction papers and honorable discharge paper were received by the court, the offense would not appear on his record. T stated that he completed boot camp and where did his ass wind up Viet Nam. His comment was that they shoot back at you with guns you never imagiend. We mentored him in Chemistry and he earned a degree in Criminology.

    • onlyiamunitron says:

      “And I bet prison officials say they place juveniles in solitary confinement for their own protection.”

      The state hands them a juvenile, whether they want ’em or not, and they have the choice of solitary or putting them in the general population.

      How safe do you think they’re going to be in Gen Pop?

      The prison officials are being handed chicken sh*t by the state and told to make chicken salad out of it.


    • Aunt Bea says:

      Step one—isolation.
      It’s in the manual….

  9. Trained Observer says:

    Thank you for heads up. I’ll watch.

    Posted this on previous thread — it’s about a kid wrongfully convicted, and freed 26 years later, thanks to persistence from a public defender heroine and despite foot-dragging by Broward Sheriff’s Office.


    • Yes, I saw that.

      Good catch!

    • gbrbsb says:

      @Trained Observer

      Such a sad story and one of much too many caused by ignorance and lack of understanding. I have for the past years acted as a ferocious voluntary advocate for adults with learning difficulties and/or impairments and/or disabilities or otherwise called , or as they so wonderfully refer to them in India, “PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT ABILITIES” a label that at least affords them all the respect they deserve as they are indeed very very special people just in a different way.

      May I first say without wanting to offend that the newspaper is incorrect, it is a misnomer to refer to those as Caravella as having a “mental” disability albeit he could of course, just as a “normal” person, also suffer from a mental disability but it is rare. On the other hand the word “retarded” is not acceptable over here and I feel sad when some posters use it as to me it is like calling Trayvon a “nigger”, and even if inadvertently and without malice, shows a lack of respect for those living, through no fault of their own, with such a condition.

      Depending on the severity of the impairment (IQ is not a true test as despite not being able to read or write many have other abilities a lot of us would die for!) they are of the most vulnerable within our society. The majority are loving, trusting and giving and the few with challenging behaviour is never from choice but from fear. Their real desire to please everyone makes them sadly the focus of use, abuse and mistreatment.

      My OH has two severely learning impaired adult sons just turned 40. We care for them at home because institutional care is just that, institutional, i.e. impersonal, cold, regimented, devoid of choices, etc. Both “boys” are the most innocent, loving, happy people you could meet and despite the hard work caring for them 24/7 they are a joy for all those who have the privilege to get to know them, indeed they are less of a problem than my OH’s only “normal” son of 30 who has caused more headaches and heartaches on his own than both boys have in all their lives.

      There is beautiful UK film, well worth the watch if you have the opportunity and are interested, called “Let Him Have it” It is based on the true story of the learning impaired adult Derek William Bentley executed as accessory to a murder in 1953 less than a month after his sentence, with his conviction only being finally quashed and a full posthumous pardon given in 1998 after a 45 year campaign to clear his name and after this film brought his case to worldwide renown. Here is a link to the trailer at least:

      (Sorry to repeat my comment to your similar post of the previous thread here but it could go unnoticed with the changed thread and I feel the issue has at least some similarities with that of the treatment of juveniles)

    • gbrbsb says:

      @Trained Observer and anyone interested
      I have just discovered that the film “Let Him Have it” based on the true story of Derek Bentley has been uploaded on youtube in 11 parts under the user id of “SingingDetective81”.

    • Trained Observer says:

      GBRBSB — you raise many interesting points. I’m hopeful the jury finds for the plaintiff, and that further investigation will focus on why this (then) boy did not have adequate representation at trial. Based on the wrongly incarcerated boy’s responses in court, it appears he may be “slow” but perhaps not anything beyond that. It appears most of his problems stem from an intense loyalty to his friend who the Miramar cops were threatening … mostly with empty threats. I’ll update when the verdict comes in. Again, you’ve raised some key points on the status of the victimized once young man.

      • gbrbsb says:

        That is the major problem with people as these; intense loyalty, trust, and a real desire and need to please. I just checked Wikipedia again and Bentley’s IQ of 71 is similar to Caravella’s with 67 (it is not a true test but gives an idea). Also in my haste I did Bentley an injustice, he was given a Royal pardon ’93 but in ’98 the Court of Appeal fully quashed his conviction for murder, he would have been 65.

    • Aunt Bea says:

      Very few things make me cry these days, but this did.

      How many more that don’t get the team required to bring these cases to light and thereby to right?
      So-o-o-o many years later.
      Where are the advocates on the front end of these events?

      Gotta’ wonder if the Martinez family, the new persons of interest, had connections or other useful purposes at the time? Mr. Guess thought the investigation was weak into them at the time.
      Sound familiar?

      Defendants are always out-gunned.
      Sometimes they are hit with “friendly fire” even.

      • Trained Observer says:

        Yes, Aunt Bea, I’d also wondered about Martinez and what pull that family had to alter course of the investigation. Even at this late date, this needs to be pursued. So very true, when you say “defendants are always outgunned.”

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