Strip-Searching and Solitary Confinement of Girls at Texas "State School"

Entrance to "Freedom Dorm" at Brownwood State School

It could not be more ironic that one of the buildings that contains the holding cells of the Brownwood State School – a high-security youth prison in central Texas — is called “Freedom Dorm.” Approximately 150 girls are currently incarcerated at Brownwood; nationwide, more than 14,000 girls are in prison on any given night. When you think of “juvenile detention centers” you might imagine something like a boarding school, but in fact, many facilities look much like adult prisons.

A solitary confinement cell at the now-closed Marlin Intake and Orientation Center

A cell at the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center, a facility for children with mental illness or serious emotional disturbance

A solitary confinement cell at Brownwood.

Girls are restrained with brutal physical force and are regularly locked up in solitary confinement — a punishment used for minor misbehaviors as well as for girls who express wanting to hurt themselves.

"If we don’t agree to get on the floor… they come in with the shield, they ram you against the wall, and then they throw you on the floor. I got my chin busted open — I had to get four stitches and I got my tooth chipped."

16-year-old girl incarcerated at Brownwood

Especially given that almost every one of these girls has suffered multiple traumas — including sexual abuse, physical abuse, drug addiction, mental illness, poverty, and violence — it is shocking how the very system that professes to rehabilitate them utterly fails to provide them with treatment or education, and instead re-traumatizes them.

"The SA system is not at all what you would call protective toward an SA person. It stands for ‘suicide alert,’ but staff make fun of it and call it ‘stupid alert’ or ‘seeking attention alert,’ because they think that when we cut ourselves or when we try to commit suicide that we’re seeking attention even though we’re going through hard times."

16-year-old girl incarcerated at Brownwood

The girls incarcerated at Brownwood receive virtually no professional counseling and are seen infrequently by psychiatrists, who often do no more than prescribe dangerous combinations of psychotropic drugs in high dosages. At Brownwood, some of the girls are seen by a “telecom” psychiatrist who conducts appointments via teleconference. As one girl put it, “How can you trust someone you can only see on TV?” Not receiving proper treatment and left alone with their emotions, many girls are driven to cut themselves, bang their heads against the concrete walls, and attempt suicide.

Cuts a girl at Corsicana inflicted on herself.

The response to these behaviors is physical restraint, pepper spray, and further solitary confinement.

In the hopes of bringing to light this broken system and changing these inhumane practices, five of the girls at the Brownwood prison, with the help of the ACLU, filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the Texas Youth Commission, which operates all youth prisons in Texas. The lawsuit charges that TYC subjects the girls to unwarranted solitary confinement, routine strip searches and brutal physical force. The filing coincided with the Annie E. Casey Foundation's release of its 2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book, which features an essay on the need to reform the juvenile justice system in the U.S.

For more information on the ACLU's work on girls in youth prisons, including excerpts of interviews with the girls held in the Brownwood facility, check out:

Add a comment (5)
Read the Terms of Use


Gotta say..
The 'Texas' name comes up an awful lot
in any of our discussions of brutal inequity.

make it clear

The offenders are not sleeping on cold steel metal slabs. The offenders are given a mattress and blanket when admitted. If the offender(s) are on SA they to get a mattress but a SA blanket and they are changed over to a SA gown. Yes, we did strip search them. The offenders are strip search for several reasons; contraband(pencils, pens, markers, homemade shanks, ligatures, food from cafe(student workers), even tattoo machines. The offenders take the gel pens so they could make tattoos on themselves especially tattoos of their girlfriend's initials. yes, the offenders on dorms do have their doors locked at night. All I can say that the ACLU needs to come on out here and stay for all three shifts for more than three months and really see how these female offenders behave on all dorms and in security. Security does not spray them when they are in cuffs or in leathers, nor do we throw them in the cells. The offenders do however resist, become combative and even fight staff just so they could get restraint. We have reasoned more so with the offenders to get their compliance and still they refuse to follow any of security rules. We also had an offender who happened to write a letter describing on how she wanted to mutilate herself by cutting her privates just so that she can remember her pain out in the free. alot of these offenders are beyond help but we do what we can and we are limited. you have also offenders who will try to be with their girlfriends in security by telling staff on dorm that she is needing a self referral and when the offender arrives in security, the offender looks at our blackboard to see what pod and cell that the offender's girlfriend is in. When security staff informs her of the pod that the offender is going, the offenders becomes upset because it is not where her girlfriend is at. The offender did not get her way and was escorted to the pod that she was informed earlier. Another way we handle the situation when an offender comes in as a self referral and demands to put where she wants. We automatically state to the offender that she does not make the choice where she wants to go and if the offender does not comply with security rules then the offender can go back to the dorm. What you ACLU forget to realize that these offenders are good at manipulating anyone but they are not that very good. We catch on and they don't like it. We see it as the offenders were sent here to do their time not to continue to committ and get away. What's next on the list; give them(offenders) what they want by allowing more freedom and more free world stuff. When one of these offenders assault you or try to kill you or a loved one; will your thinking change about them or will you continue to say that the offenders just made simple mistake and that they are just babies.


They fight to be restrained, make it clear? I find that hard to believe.

I don't care what they did; our constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment. They should be treated humanely, and there is little evidence that they are with any consistency. This system seems only to exacerbate the factors in their lives that led them to where they are, not rehabilitate them. If we're just going to shut them away because they can't be fixed, you might as well be consistent and just advocate killing them outright.

Eric T.

I thought this section was about equal rights. I see now that it is not. The boys are treated the same as the girls. Yet there is not one mention of helping or assisting them. I doubt anyone even considered asking any of them to join the lawsuit. So it looks like the ACLU is sponsering a lawsuit the would support sexism in one of our government systems. Wow the ACLU has some nerve to try and act like they are not a bunch of self serving hipocrits. It is really sad.


dats is soooooo nasty ewww gross ugghhh

fuck all you crackers tryna put niggas in jail you shall burn in hell hahahahahah

Stay Informed