Thursday, March 14, 2013

Juvenile Hall & Myers' Lockdown

From today's Guardian article "MPs alarmed at rising use of force to restrain young offenders in detention," on the possibly excessive use of violence in British juvenile detention centers:
MPs have raised serious concerns about the rising use of force to restrain young offenders in detention last year. The Commons justice select committee says that the use of restraint has now been definitively linked to the death of at least one teenager and endorses calls for an independent inquiry to ensure no further deaths... The MPs say that the Office of Children's Commissioner found evidence in 2011 of a tendency in youth custody to focus on physical controls to manage risk and deal with challenging behaviour: "Restraint is supposed to be used as a last resort to prevent individuals from causing harm to themselves and to others.'' But the report says that 254 of the incidents led to injuries, 7% of which were serious. The chief inspector of prisons found last year that 44% of young male black and Asian detainees had been physically restrained by staff compared with 32% of young white men. Two teenagers have died in restraint-related incidents in privately run secure training centres. Adam Rickwood, 14, hanged himself in the Hassockfield centre in 2004. Gareth Myatt, 15, died in hospital in 2004, following a restraint incident at Rainsbrook centre.
For a book on the juvenile hall experience, try Walter Dean Myers' young adult novel Lockdown:
Myers takes readers inside the walls of a juvenile corrections facility in this gritty novel. Fourteen-year-old Reese is in the second year of his sentence for stealing prescription pads and selling them to a neighborhood dealer. He fears that his life is headed in a direction that will inevitably lead him “upstate,” to the kind of prison you don’t leave. His determination to claw his way out of the downward spiral is tested when he stands up to defend a weaker boy, and the resulting recriminations only seem to reinforce the impossibility of escaping a hopeless future. Reese’s first-person narration rings with authenticity as he confronts the limits of his ability to describe his feelings, struggling to maintain faith in himself; Myers’ storytelling skills ensure that the messages he offers are never heavy-handed.

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