Private Prisons and Kids: ‘A Picture of Such Horror as Should Be Unrealized Anywhere in the Civilized World’
On March 22, Judge Reeves heard searing testimony from six young African-American youth — the youngest only 15 — on the horrors to which they had been subjected in the Walnut Grove prison. The courtroom was packed with family members as well as Walnut Grove prison staff. Judge Reeves closely questioned the father of a young prisoner who had been so badly beaten that he suffers permanent brain damage; the boy’s father described spending six weeks desperately trying to locate his son after prison officials moved the boy to a hospital and refused to tell his family what had happened to him.
Two days before the hearing, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report concluding that “brazen” staff sexual misconduct and brutal youth-on-youth rape at Walnut Grove was among the worst that DOJ had seen “in any facility anywhere in the nation.”
In his scathing and powerful order, Judge Reeves found it “astonishing” that nothing had caused the defendants to change course. In fact, he wrote, “The testimony established that only two days before the hearing, the facility remained so understaffed that a teenage offender was brutally attacked.” He also found that “the youth are routinely subjected to excessive force by prison officials and staff consistently fails to report and investigate these claims,” which he found unsurprising, “given that the facility employs correctional staffers affiliated with gangs.”