These courageous girls are confronting oppressive conditions in the Texas Youth Commission’s Brownwood State School, a youth prison in central Texas. Despite struggles in their own lives, the girls are standing up for their rights and the rights of the other children confined in Brownwood.
K.C. is an eighteen-year-old girl from Fort Worth, TX. She has been incarcerated since she was fourteen, when she was sent to Brownwood for accidentally hitting her teacher during a fight in class. She was only supposed to serve one year at Brownwood, but her sentence has repeatedly been extended, and she has now been held in Brownwood for four years. K.C., like many girls confined in youth prisons, had a traumatic childhood filled with drugs and violence. She was raped by her uncle when she was six years old and was taken to prostitute with her mother at seven. “I was taught if someone did something bad to me, to hold it in,” K.C. recalls.
At Brownwood, K.C. has been put in solitary confinement, sometimes for months at a time, as punishment for cutting herself, talking, standing in the doorway of her cell, and not being able to run enough laps. Once, when she resisted going to solitary confinement, workers handcuffed her, threw her to the ground, and pepper-sprayed her in the face and eyes. K.C. has been tied in leather restraints and left face-down in the middle of the concrete cell floor. Being thrown to the ground and forcefully restrained by male guards causes her to suffer flashbacks to her childhood rapes. As a result of the trauma that has been inflicted on her at Brownwood, K.C. has attempted suicide multiple times while in custody.
Along with four other girls in Brownwood, K.C. is challenging these inhumane and traumatizing practices with the hope that neither she nor any other girl will be treated this way in the future. When asked about her future plans she said that she would like to “work with mentally ill people and people with Alzheimer’s, or be a writer and write poetry.”
F.T. is a fifteen-year-old girl from San Antonio, TX. At age fourteen, she was sent to Brownwood for “failing to identify herself to a police officer.” As a child she was molested by her father and has struggled with psychiatric illness and drug abuse.
While in Brownwood, F.T. has been sent to solitary confinement for suicidal gestures and self-injury – such as wrapping a bra around her neck and cutting her arms with her fingernails – instead of being provided counseling and other appropriate treatment for her depression. Rather than deterring her from harming herself, the psychological stress of solitary confinement causes F.T. to feel so isolated and depressed that she has attempted suicide. When asked how it feels when she is subjected to isolation, she said, “It makes me think a lot about my problems when I’m just sitting in the cell with nothing to do. It makes me feel like none of the officers care about me. Really, they don’t.”
N.E. is a fifteen-year-old girl from Houston, TX. She was sent to Brownwood when she was fourteen years old for failing to comply with the terms of her ankle monitor, violating curfew, and fighting with her mother. At an early age, N.E. was abused by both her father and stepfather, and also witnessed her mother being abused. N.E. has been put in solitary confinement numerous times, often for minor misbehavior such as refusing to put her hands behind her back. When asked how she feels when guards at Brownwood forcefully restrain her, use pepper spray on her, or subject her to solitary confinement, N.E. said, “It’s embarrassing, I feel shame. I feel neglected and abused.”
M.N. is a fifteen-year-old girl from Dallas, TX. After being placed in numerous treatment facilities starting at the age of twelve, M.N. was eventually sent to Brownwood when she was fourteen for fighting back when a school safety officer tried to physically restrain her. M.N.’s problems stem from her time in foster care, where she suffered emotional and sexual abuse. Asked about the use of physical force in Brownwood, M.N. said, “If I see someone getting restraints, I hate it. Even if I don’t like the girl, I’ll jump in because I think she’s getting hurt. I’ll take the pain for her.”
M.N. has been sent to solitary confinement for unjustified reasons, such as covering her face with a blanket while sleeping in her bed, and confiding in a TYC worker that she felt bad and had thought about cutting herself.
S.H. is a sixteen-year-old girl from San Antonio, TX. While S.H. was growing up, both she and her mother were both abused by her father. She was sent to Brownwood in 2007, and has been put in solitary confinement for swearing and for telling a worker that she wanted to hurt herself. Once, S.H. refused to be strip searched and was pepper sprayed by guards and put in solitary confinement.
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