Girls Confined to Youth Prisons in the United States

Document Date: June 12, 2008

I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.
– Charles Dickens on solitary confinement, American Notes, 1842

<!– (Quotes from girls incarcerated at the Brownwood prison."Security" is a euphemism used for solitary confinement.) –>

There are currently more than 14,000 girls incarcerated in the United States, a number that has been rapidly increasing in recent decades. Most of these girls are arrested for minor, nonviolent offenses and probation violations. Locked up under the guise of rehabilitation, girls nationwide – the vast majority of whom have been sexually and/or physically abused – are subjected to punitive solitary confinement, routine strip searches, and other forms of abuse. Meanwhile, they are denied the mental health care, education, and social services they need. Far from helping girls cope with the trauma they have suffered, youth prisons re-traumatize them and further impede their rehabilitation.

On June 12, 2008 the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit challenging these inhumane practices at the Brownwood State School, a youth prison in central Texas.

READ PROFILES of the five courageous girls who are confronting the oppressive conditions and standing up for their rights

Keesha,* a 16-year-old girl at Brownwood, talks about the invasiveness of strip searches, which are conducted to make sure girls aren’t smuggling things like pens and notes. play mp3 >>

Carley,* a 17-year-old girl at Brownwood, talks about the frequent strip searches she and the other girls at the Brownwood facility are subjected to. play mp3 >>

Tiffany,* an 18-year-old girl at the Victoria County Juvenile Justice Center in Texas, talks about being stripped when going into a padded cell and having her glasses, which she is heavily dependent on, taken away. play mp3 >>

Keesha talks about the punitive SA (suicide alert) program, designed to monitor girls who have expressed suicidal feelings. play mp3 >>

*All names are pseudonyms

> A Blueprint for Meeting the Needs of Girls in TYC Custody (5/24/2007)
> Custody and Control: Conditions of Confinement in New York’s Juvenile Prisons for Girls
> Incarcerated Girls “Testify” at U.S. Social Forum (6/28/2007)
> Abused at Home, Abused by the System: Girls and the Juvenile Justice System
> Fact Sheet: Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

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