What Happened to My Son Should Never Happen Again

Imagine you have a 13-year-old son. And now imagine the worst that could happen to him. I'm a mother, and I've lived through it.

When my son Corey was 13, he was raped by another young prisoner. Cell guards stood by and watched, taking bets on which "kid would win." Corey lost the fight.

After something this horrific happens, kids should get support. Instead, Corey was placed in solitary confinement.

At the time, we actually felt relief when we heard he'd been placed in "protective custody," one of the many names juvenile facilities use for solitary confinement. In those early days we had no information on the damaging effects of solitary. We thought solitary would help to keep Corey safe from the rampant violence in the facility.

Instead, what we have seen since is that solitary hurt my son a great deal.

Once, Corey was an honor roll student who was well-liked by his teachers and peers. But after just a few short months in juvenile detention, he became fearful and anxious. The physical abuse left him with physical scars; but it is the emotional damage, caused by the extreme isolation and exposure to horrific violence at such a young age, that concerns me the most.

When he first came home, Corey was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and deep depression. He would strike out blindly in his waking moments out of fear of being assaulted. He cried out in his sleep and suffered from nightmares. Even our family's love and care could not erase the horror he experienced or heal his wounds.

After this first period behind bars, Corey has returned to juvenile facilities several other times. He has been locked alone in solitary in every facility he has ever been in, often for extended periods of time.

As a mother who witnessed the long-term impact of my son's time in solitary confinement, I know that children should never be locked alone. I feel deeply concerned that the federal Bureau of Prisons has refused to release any information about whether kids under its care are being subjected to solitary confinement for extended periods of time. There could be many more kids, suffering as my son did – we simply do not know. And if we do not know, we cannot help.

A couple months ago, my organization, Justice for Families, joined 40 other concerned groups and sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to ban solitary confinement for children in the custody of the federal government. Last month, Robert L. Listenbee, Administrator of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) responded to our request. In his letter, Listenbee said that DOJ knows that "isolation of children is dangerous and inconsistent with best practices and that excessive isolation can constitute cruel and unusual punishment" and that DOJ "intend[s] to examine the status of Department efforts in this area."

I couldn't agree more that the solitary confinement of children is dangerous, wrong and violates basic human and constitutional rights. And I applaud OJJDP for its commitment to look into the issue. But this should just be the first step. Here's what needs to come next:

  • The DOJ must tell the public about whether and how it uses solitary confinement on children.
  • It must ban the practice for children in federal custody.
  • It must use its power to encourage state and local facilities to do the same.

For my family, seeing the impact of solitary on my son has been devastating. Other families with kids behind bars in federal juvenile detention should have the guarantee that the U.S. government will never subject their children to solitary confinement.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Attorney General Eric Holder to ban the solitary confinement of youth in federal facilities.

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My son is now in rappahannock regional jail and he has mental problems he was arrested last year after helping police this jail has violated so many of his human and civil rights they have also kept him in solitary confinement for almost 7 months this on top of his other issues is cruel very cruel punishment and they are little rly killing my son I need help it is a privately owned jail they are mistreating a lot of inmates and are very racial please someone help these inmates my son just turned 19 in jail but his mind is not up with his age I want to help all the inmates being abused by this jail and by the jail personnel this jail is in stafford va please please help before my son actually dies there have been deaths in this jail that's even been covered up thank u for any help just please help


Yes, violence in prison and solitary confinement are problems, most especially for juveniles. But this story takes a great leap from honor student to juvie. Clearly there is more to this. Stop the violence, stop the solitary, but stop the pipeline to juvie to begin with. Children NEVER belong in prison. Study after study shows punitive measures backfire.


So what did Corey do to be put in Juvenile Detention anyway?? And you say he has returned to JD several more times. This sounds like a kid who didn't get his ass beat enough, wasn't taught right from wrong and we he did wrong, was not punished. This sounds like a kid who will grow into the adult jail system.


What was he put into Juvenile Detention for in the first place?
You left out that vital piece of information.


If you want people to consider this article completely you should be forthcoming as to why your son was in federal custody at the age of 13 in the first place. It makes me think the worst if it is not stated and removes some of the empathy that could be directed his way. For instance if he is in for aggravated assault, murder or rape I feel less bad about him being assaulted in prison.


Also, please consider urging the Department of Justice to honor their legal duties to protect boys like this boy from sexual assault under VAWA, which in theory provides support for sexual assault victims of all genders.

In practice, VAWA funded programs have shamelessly discriminated against boys and men like your son who are victims.

Please join me in asking the DOJ to protect ALL victims by upholding the law with integrity:

Office on Violence Against Women: Protect boys who are raped and sexually assaulted by women in juvenile halls

Protect this military man who is a victim of rape and other male victims like him

Action Opportunity: Ask Attorney General Eric Holder to act on his words and stop VAWA taxpayer funded discrimination against men and boys who are victims of domestic violence and rape

For more, information, see:

Thank you!


Why was your son in juvenile detention to begin with?


The so called correctional facilities are designed to break down the mind and soul. They are seeking only long term profit and this is why many of the nations facilities are privately owned both juvenile and adult. our tax dollars are paying not to rehabilitate but to program future criminals of America. It is sad that truths such as Cory's are swept under the carpet with little exposer.


Why was your son in prison?


The government does not care what happens to kids or adults in jail or prison. It's a crime school not a rehabilitation center. I'm sorry what happened to your son that is unacceptable. The police really don't care what happens. Once someone's locked up they judge you as a bad parent and your son deserving of the treatment he gets. I've been there with my own son. The judges, cops, guards whatever they don't care. It's like we live in a third world country. Lets keep building prisons, cutting education and not allow rehab for gods sake. But it's ok for people to get raped,beat,traumatized beyond belief in our own system.Makes me sick. Again I'm so sorry about what happened to your son.


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