Posts filed under Youth

Tortured until proven innocent

Last year this article by Chris Vogel from the Houston Press won the Molly Award from the Texas Observer. It’s about teenagers locked in the Harris County (Houston), Texas jail system while awaiting a trial. They have not been convicted of any crime, or proven to pose a threat to any human being’s life or liberty; but if they are juveniles (14, 15, or 16 years old) who have been certified to be tried as adults, then they await their trial — often for over a year — in an isolation cage, with the lights on 24 hours a day, where they are held against their will apart from any human contact for 23 hours of every day. The 60 minutes they spend outside of the isolation torture cell is for recreation, where they are, very often, shackled. This is, of course, an extreme form of psychological torture. Like many of the most extreme forms of psychological torture, it is inflicted on kids who haven’t yet been convicted of any crime, but is inflicted on them For Their Own Good:

Harris County sheriff’s spokesman Lieutenant John Legg says the jail does not make special accommodations for juveniles.

They’re treated like any other inmate, he says.

Except for one glaring difference: isolation.

One reason for this, says Legg, is for their own safety. He says several years ago, teens were allowed into common areas with each other during the day, but they would fight and steal each other’s commissary items, so jail officials decided to keep them in their cells for a majority of the time. A choice, says Legg, which has had the desired result.

— Chris Vogel, For Their Own Good: Harris County juveniles certified as adults are jailed in isolation 23 hours a day–without being convicted of a crime, reprinted in the Texas Observer

The result desired by Lieutenant John Legg, no doubt. I wonder how much his prisoners desired the result of being tortured 23 hours a day for the sins of other prisoners they had no control over.

Like George, Diego [16 years old] says time drones on, blending into one seamless, never ending day. He is bored constantly. So bored, he says, that some days he can’t even concentrate to read. Occasionally, he catches himself talking to himself out loud. At times he’s thought he was hallucinating. Like many other teens in segregation, he’ll beat on his cell door and try to start a riot, sometimes because we didn’t get our full hour out of our cell and sometimes because there’s nothing else to do.

He says he can’t wait to turn 17 and get placed in with other inmates, or get convicted and go to prison, just so he can escape the isolation.

— Chris Vogel, For Their Own Good: Harris County juveniles certified as adults are jailed in isolation 23 hours a day–without being convicted of a crime, reprinted in the Texas Observer

Meanwhile, here’s Dennis McKnight, who used to do the same thing to presumed-innocent juveniles awaiting trial in Bexar County (San Antonio), on the trials and travails of jailing presumed-innocent teenagers:

To the adult jailors, though, it all comes down to a choice between the lesser of two evils: general population or segregation and isolation.

They shouldn’t be held in 23-hour lockdown, admits McKnight, but unfortunately that’s where we have to put them for their safety and for everyone else’s safety. It’s a trade-off that we are forced to make.

Well, no. It’s a trade-off that they force their prisoners to make. Or, more specifically, they make the trade and their prisoners are forced to take the goods. Even if they’d prefer being convicted if it just meant they could get out of the torture.

But I should be more sympathetic. It’s so hard, really, when you need a safe cage to lock all these presumptively innocent teenagers up in for years at a time.[1] Who knows where to put them all? Vogel quotes Liz Ryan of Youth Justice saying, It’s a Catch-22 … They don’t want the kid in isolation and they don’t want the kid in general population. They know it’s not safe either way. Well. I wonder if they’ve tried putting them, you know, not in prison?

  1. [1]It helps if you can revise the meaning of the word safe so that it includes things like being safely driven out of your mind over the course of years.

Friday Lazy Linking

<li><p><a href="">“Sunday Schools That Teach Children Anarchy,” from the New York Times (May 8, 1910) Rad Geek, <cite>Fair Use Blog</cite> (2011-02-02)</a>. <q>Here’s some more on mass-media reception of Anarchism during the early 20th century: a strange little piece from the Sunday New York Times magazine from May 8, 1910, on Anarchist Sunday schools in New York, focusing on the Ferrer Sunday School taught by Alexander Berkman. The Sunday schools were part...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2011-02-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">C4SS Appeal. Roderick, <cite>Austro-Athenian Empire</cite> (2011-02-02)</a>. <q>Guest Blogs by Brad Spangler and Kevin Carson C4SS 1st Quarter 2011 Fundraiser by Brad Spangler Dear Supporters of the Center for a Stateless Society, I hope everybody had a happy holiday season and has been staying warm so far this Winter. Now it’s time to pay some bills …...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2011-02-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">More on the Non-Existent "War on Cops" Radley Balko, <cite>Radley Balko: Reason Magazine articles and blog posts.</cite> (2011-02-03)</a>. <q>In my Monday column debunking the &quot;war on cops&quot; meme currently working its way through the media, I noted that fatal attacks on police officer deaths have dropped pretty dramatically over the last 25-30 years. Yesterday a reader sent me a link to this mostly unfortunate discussion of the column...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2011-02-04.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Does Gandhi Deserve a Place in the Libertarian Tradition? <cite>Mises Institute Daily Articles (Full-text version)</cite> (2011-02-02)</a>. <q>If you abjure all violence, you must abjure the state. Thus, while not all libertarians are pacifists, all pacifists are libertarians, whether they realize it or not (and, admittedly, a great many pacifists have not realized it). Gandhi, it appears, did realize it.</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2011-02-04.)</em></p></li>

Wednesday Lazy Linking

<li><p><a href="">Jury Says it&#39;s Okay to Record the TSA. schneier, <cite>Schneier on Security</cite> (2011-01-31)</a>. <q>The Seattle man who refused to show ID to the TSA and recorded the whole incident has been cleared of all charges: [The jury] returned not guilty verdicts for charges that included concealing his identity, refusing to obey a lawful order, trespassing, and disorderly conduct. Papers, Please! says the acquittal...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2011-02-01.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Revolution in Egypt: Learn More! inciteblog, <cite>INCITE! Blog</cite> (2011-02-01)</a>. <q>Are you excited about the grassroots revolution happening in Egypt?  Do you want to learn more about the background of what’s happening and what the movement is organizing for?  Here are some resources: First, a recent video of a protester in Tahir Square in Cairo.  She explains the political goals...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2011-02-01.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">"Free as in Sexist?": Sexism in the Free Culture Movement. <cite>Joseph Reagle</cite> (2011-01-28)</a>. <q>The introduction to my draft on free culture and sexism: In the summer of 2010, David Finsher and Aaron Sorkin's film about the beginnings of Facebook ("The Social Network") attracted much discussion about the portrayal of women in geeky projects. Tracy Clark-Flory (2010fpo), writing for, wrote the film prompts...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2011-02-01.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Early Corporate Welfare: “An act for the relief of sick and disabled seamen” Jad Davis, <cite>The jVerse</cite> (2011-01-31)</a>. <q>A friend pointed out a fascinating article on “An act for the relief of sick and disabled seamen“[1] which the author points to as a precedent for Congress mandating health coverage for citizens of the United States. I don’t have any disagreement with his conclusion, that the Constitution in no...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2011-02-01.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Annual Bay Area Anarchist Cafe. kate, <cite>Anarchoblogs in English</cite> (2011-02-01)</a>. <q>The Anarchist Cafe is on! Every year, the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair is preceded by the annual Anarchist Cafe, an sober-space gathering with vegan dinner and performances, that provides a space for folks to gather before the madness of Bookfair weekend sets in. Much fun, good eats, lots of good...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2011-02-01.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">It’s a Child, Not a Choice. <cite>Center for a Stateless Society</cite> (2011-02-01)</a>. "No, it's not an anti-abortion rant... The problem isn’t lack of competition within the government education mandate. The problem is the government education mandate." <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2011-02-01.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Obama Marxism Watch — Be Very Afraid! Kevin Carson, <cite>Center for a Stateless Society</cite> (2011-01-06)</a>. <q>For over two years, we unappreciated patriots have taken upon ourselves the thankless task of outing Barack Obama as a closeted Marxist and exposing his insidious socialist agenda for enslaving this country. While Obama sat in his Red Study Circle with comrades Geithner, Summers and Rubin, busily reading “Quotations from...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2011-02-01.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Traffic Problems Will Disappear by Year 2000 (1955) Matt Novak, <cite>Paleofuture Blog</cite> (2011-02-01)</a>. <q>From the 1958 Disneyland TV episode Magic Highway, USA The September 22, 1955 Lewiston Daily Sun (Lewiston, ME) ran a wonderful piece titled, "Hope For the Motorist: Traffic Problems Will Disappear by Year 2000." Such unbridled optimism for the yet to be developed Interstate Highway System is downright cute. Well,...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2011-02-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Store Fronts. Dorothy, <cite>Cat and Girl</cite> (2011-02-01)</a>.  <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2011-02-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Hell No, We Won't Fire. Jesse Walker, <cite>Jesse Walker: Reason Magazine articles and blog posts.</cite> (2011-01-31)</a>. <q>When the troops won&#39;t shoot, the game&#39;s just about over: The Egyptian army has said it will not use force against protesters calling for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak ahead of a &quot;million people&quot; march. The military said it considers the people&#39;s demands &quot;legitimate&quot;.</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2011-02-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Andrew Jackson. IOZ, <cite>Who Is IOZ?</cite> (2011-01-10)</a>. <q>Is there a bigger, more sanctimonious boob in the whole blessed world than Keith Olberman? "Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in democracy"? Um, uh, what? Tell it to the Cherokee. Tell it to the Iraqis. Tell it to Baltimore and Washington South of the Capitol. Tell...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2011-02-02.)</em></p></li>

School’s out forever

In Lakewood, Ohio, Stephanie Milligan, a 16 year old high school student, fell down a flight of stairs and hurt her back. She wanted to get back to school after Thanksgiving break, but the principal wouldn’t let her. He wouldn’t let her because she needs to wear loose clothing — sweat pants, in particular — because of her back injury, but the school’s dress code bans Oversize, saggy, baggy or tight fitting clothing. Her doctor wrote her a note asking that she be allowed to wear sweatpants. That a recommendation from a licensed physician is necessary to be allowed to wear sweatpants to school is obviously insane in and of itself, but the school’s principal, William Wagner, is both a medical expert and a scholar, and he questions the severity of Stephanie’s injury and her need to wear sweatpants.

Armetta Landrum wrote about it for the Lakewood Patch (2010-12-20). Here’s the headline and subtitle for the story:

Student on the Hot Seat for Wearing Sweatpants to School

Sophomore at odds with school’s dress code, missed nine days of school.

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the school’s dress code is at odds with the sophomore’s health.

Here is Lakewood High School Principal William Wagner’s explanation as to why not even a doctor’s request is a good enough reason to consider making an exception to his interpretation of his saggy/baggy dress code clause:

They don’t understand what the dress code is all about or how it is imposed.

–Quoted by Armetta Landrum, Student on the Hot Seat for Wearing Sweatpants to School, Lakewood Patch (2010-12-20)

Indeed. A doctor’s advice is, usually, about helping people, and he no doubt wrote his note on the common, but mistaken, assumption that school policies exist to help students learn. But that assumption is a complete misunderstanding: the dress code is not about helping students; it’s all about controlling students, and a reasonable exception is the last thing you want to make if your aim is to ensure that you, as the controlling authority, will continue to be able to keep young people in line with even the most insane and petty of requirements.[1]

On a related note, Principal William Wagner is probably, like most high school administrators, a very stupid man, and intellectually negligent to the point of being functionally illiterate, especially when he is trying to defend his petty exercises of petty authority. I am fairly certain that what he meant to say is not that doctors don’t understand … how [the dress code] is imposed (as if that were some sort of mystery) but rather that they don’t understand how it is construed, or perhaps that they don’t understand the reasons by which it is justified. However, I will say that he has unwittingly highlighted the real issue here: how this sort of idiocy is imposed on perfectly innocent young people and well-meaning doctors and parents, because bellowing blowhard bullies like Principal William Wagner are appointed by politico-bureaucratic means, are supported by a political structure that crowds out any viable alternative and so insulates them from either popular voice or individual exit, and thus gives them the authority to insist on even the most insane policies, in the interest of protecting their disciplinary turf from any possible encroachment — even encroachment by minimal concern for innocent students’ education, comfort or good health.

See also:

  1. [1]To be fair, the original purpose of the saggy/baggy dress code requirement itself was, no doubt, not to impose an insane and petty requirement on students, just for the sake of making them comply with insane and petty requirements. Like most such dress code clauses, the original purpose was no doubt to uphold institutional racism by selectively targeting ghetto styles of dress. Sadistic authoritarianism is always spilling over its original boundaries, so in this case an idiotic policy written with the purpose of racist social regulation now is construed and applied in an especially rigid way, with no clear motive for the rigidity other than a general defense of turf and disciplinary command-and-control.

Friday Lazy Linking

<li><p><a href="">Emma Goldman: Don’t Vote. Lew Rockwell, <cite> Blog</cite> (2010-10-20)</a>. <q>Writes Liz Roberts: Recently a friend of a friend on Facebook professed his love for the “opportunity to express our greatest blessing as a free society.”  That blessing, of course, being the ability to vote.  He fervently insisted: “It is the time that “we the people” have the greatest power...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">&quot;What’s it to you?&quot;: Canada Admits its Crime, Again. Larry Gambone, <cite>Anarchoblogs in English</cite> (2010-10-06)</a>. <q>by Kevin D. Annett Thousands of children died in the (residential) schools and their families were not informed of the deaths or the burial sites. - Murray Sinclair, chair, ”Truth and Reconciliation Commission” (TRC), to Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, September 29, 2010 The lingering remnant of my home-bred naivety...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Putting a new spin on &quot;bank robbery&quot; Phil Dickens, <cite>Anarchoblogs in English</cite> (2010-10-11)</a>. <q>Via Ann Arky, who tips her own hat to Politics in the Zeros, I today came across this truly astounding story from the States;In yet another sign that the foreclosure crisis in the US may be getting out of hand, a Florida woman has gone to the press about having...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">i guess i am in heavy blog mode! on evolutionary ethics. i. Captain Capitulation, <cite>eye of the storm</cite> (2010-10-20)</a>. <q>i guess i am in heavy blog mode! on evolutionary ethics. i assume that pretty soon these folks are going to start invoking evolution in detail as a set of moral principles. so if i was a 17-year-old trying to think about whether to go to the party, they&#39;d tell...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Emergency Arts gives LVZL a chance to expand! LVZL, <cite>LVZINELIBRARY</cite> (2010-10-19)</a>. <q>It's been a hectic few weeks! Zinebriated was a great end to the month of September! The open mic I've been co-hosting with my good friend Dj miss Joy at the Beat Coffeehouse(Human Experience Mondays 7pm) has been blooming this month with talent and support. The Vegas Valley Book Festival...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-10-21.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">New PCWC downloadable pamphlet thanks to Rise Like Lions! Phoenix Insurgent, <cite>Anarchoblogs in English</cite> (2010-10-20)</a>. <q>Thanks to the new (at least to us) publishing operation Rise Like Lions for putting together a PDF pamphlet version of my recent essay "Union of Arsonists" faster than I could get one done myself. And it looks damn good, too! Cheers to them for a job well done.I also...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-10-21.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Proudhon&#39;s &quot;New Theory&quot; (1 of 3) Shawn P. Wilbur, <cite>Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth</cite> (2010-10-18)</a>. <q>Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, The Theory of Property, Chapter VI: "The New Theory" (1865)New theory: that the motives, and thus the legitimacy of property, must be sought, not in its principle or origin, but in its aims. Presentation of these motives. Philosophy has had, for three centuries, many institutions and many beliefs:...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-10-21.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Proudhon&#39;s &quot;New Theory&quot; (2 of 3) Shawn P. Wilbur, <cite>Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth</cite> (2010-10-19)</a>. <q> Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, The Theory of Property, Chapter VI: "The New Theory" (1865)[continued from section 1]§ 1. —''Necessity, after having organized the State, of creating a counter-weight to the State in the liberty of each citizen. Federalist and republican character of property. Observations on the electoral census and confiscation.'' Considered in...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-10-21.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">December 17th- International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. <cite>SWOP-LV&#39;s MySpace Blog</cite> (2007-11-29)</a>. <q>LAS VEGAS, NV This year, SWOP-LV will hold a memorial march down Fremont Street, with a candlelight vigil at the end. We will meet at the Fremont Street Experience Parking Plaza on the top floor. (Se...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-10-21.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Virginia school AP History class bans curiousity, independent study,  Internet. <cite>Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom</cite> (2010-10-22)</a>. Government School AP History Vs. Independent Thought and Research <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2010-10-22.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">Save &amp; Restore. Chris Clark, <cite>Release Candidate One</cite> (2010-10-20)</a>. <q>I let out the biggest “finally!” today during the Lion preview event, when Steve Jobs said one of the things Apple has learned from iOS apps that they are intent on bringing to Mac OS X apps is stateful pause and resume. In the Mac environment, with a more specific...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2010-10-22.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="">here&#39;s a brief illustration of what i mean on environment: Captain Capitulation, <cite>eye of the storm</cite> (2010-10-22)</a>. <q>here&#39;s a brief illustration of what i mean on environment: biosphere 2 (earth was supposed to be biosphere 1). the idea was to create a completely enclosed ecosystem, a sort of model for the way they thought about the earth, or perhaps the way they thought about various local ecosystems: as essentially...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2010-10-22.)</em></p></li>