Juvenile Justice

Private Prisons Bad for Kids Too

05.16.12

When profit becomes the primary goal in the detention of children, we open the doors to corruption and abuse. The ultimate conflict of interest made headlines in 2009 when it was discovered that two Luzerne County judges were given nearly $2.6 million by private prison developers for sentencing children to two private juvenile detention facilities in Pennsylvania. Many of the children sentenced at the privately run facilities received excessive sentences for minor offences, increasing profits for the companies. Pennsylvania has since enacted some reforms to improve the system. Unfortunately, conditions at many private juvenile facilities are still horrific.

A recent investigation by the Department of Justice found that children detained at the Walnut Grove Juvenile Detention Facility in Mississippi, run by the prison-for-profit corporation GEO Group, were continuously raped and beaten by staff members. The ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit over conditions, and a judge barred children from being housed at the facility. How many stories of abuse, torture, and rape must we hear before we realize that private prisons have no place in our juvenile justice system?