New York Times, November 17, 1998
Amnesty criticizes U.S. Juvenile Justice
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Growing numbers of youthful offenders in America are subjected to physical abuse, excessive incarceration and detainment in adult facilities, Amnesty International USA contends.
William F. Schulz, executive director of the human rights group, said the report should serve as a warning.
``These kids will be back on the streets one day,'' Schulz said. ``Nothing is guaranteed to turn a confused, angry teen-ager into a bitter adult than abusing them when they are in prison, ignoring their mental health concerns and housing them with adults.''
Among the report's findings:
Schulz said that contrary to popular notions, the average juvenile isn't brought into the justice system for a violent offense. Rather, he said, 22 percent of those held are accused of violent crimes.
- Thirty-eight states now house juveniles in adult prisons with no special programs or educational services for the young prisoners.
- Children in adult facilities are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted and twice as likely to be beaten by staff than those in juvenile facilities.
- Between 1986 and 1995, the number of children confined in custody before their cases were heard or following conviction grew by more than 30 percent.
``The image that we now have huge numbers of murderous juveniles who need to be taught a harsh lesson by society is a myth,'' Schulz said.
Recommendations offered in the report include locking up children as a last resort, periodic inspections conducted by independent oversight bodies, separate housing from adult offenders and a moratorium on executions of people who committed crimes while under the age 18. Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company The information contained in this AP Online news report may not be republished or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.