In a single year, it is estimated that 2.1 million juveniles under the age of 18 are arrested in the United States. According to juvenile attorneys, 1.7 million of these individuals will end up in court to face the charges being brought against them.
While these numbers may seem staggering, you can’t turn on the news or read the paper without hearing about a juvenile delinquency case. Most of these are cases of drug abuse, theft, disorderly conduct, simple assault, or curfew violations. Talk to any juvenile lawyer and they will tell you that these seemingly minor violations lead to many of these youths ending up in prison. Juveniles are then at risk of being mistreated or abused at the hands of adult inmates, guards, or other juvenile inmates.
One recent story making headlines occurred just an hour south of Houston, Texas, involving the Youthful Offender Program at the Clemens Unit Prison Farm. There, inmates between the ages of 14 and 17 have allegedly been subject to taunting by guards, left in solitary confinement for years, allowed to fight each other, and sexually assaulted by adult inmates.
Dominique Mitchell, a supervisor of the teen inmate program at Clemens, recently lost her job and was accused by guards of being a “snitch” when she tried to report juvenile abuse. Mitchell worried that one of the teens would end up injured or killed. Eventually, a sexual assault involving an adult inmate and a juvenile inmate led to a transfer of all juveniles housed there to another prison.
According to Houston juvenile lawyers in Texas, a 17-year-old is considered an adult, while teens as young as 14 can be tried as adults. As a result, many teenagers can be found housed in prisons with adults. In fact, on any given day, there can be up to 60,000 juveniles found in jails or prisons in the United States.
With such a large number of youths incarcerated, there are efforts being made by juvenile lawyers, special program organizers, and legislators to keep them safe. In Oklahoma, a new bipartisan bill bans juvenile solitary confinement, with many other states attempting raise the age of those tried as adults so that 17-year-old offenders will be tried as juveniles.
The Dallas Morning News calls the lack of action on behalf of abused juvenile inmates a “culture of cover-up.” But there are those — both within the prison system itself and those who represent these individuals in court — who continue to fight for these youths and who say they “will not let fear silence” them.
If you’re a juvenile who’s been accused of criminal wrongdoing or your underaged loved one is facing charges in court, we’re here to help. For more information, please contact us today.