Author Archive for



derek king 1.

I have mixed emotions as I write this post. It looks like Derek King will be returning to Estrella Vista.

He called a few weeks ago, and his life in Fairfax VA had become unbelievably difficult. I will wait until Derek is here and can explain it to you in his own words, but I will only say now that the challenges facing him were truly existential, and that makes me sad. There was little I could do from here save offering moral support and, once in a while, sending him a little money. After several offers, he finally decided to come to Estrella Vista for a time. But on his last night in Virginia before he was to have left for Texas, he was charged with a couple misdemeanors (a roach was found on his person), and he spent two or three nights in jail isolated from anyone in Fairfax who could help him. The experience was very hard on him. After posting bond, Derek is now stuck in Virginia awaiting two court dates in mid-August. But he is at least free.

I am happy about a number of things. First of all, it will be good seeing Derek and being with him again. The six months that he lived here were good enough for me that I am looking forward to a reprise of the experience. I am also looking forward to his able-bodied help around the property. But that’s all selfish. Anticipating Derek’s return from his perspective, I am glad that he will be able to breathe easily for a while and experience unconstrained growth. I am happy he feels comfortable enough at Estrella Vista that he regards it as a home he can return to. I am pleased that his basic needs can be met here, and that he is comfortable enough to adjust the place so it will meet more of his needs.

When I first visited Derek in prison, he told me he wasn’t interested in having me in his life as a father-substitute—and that was fine with me. He had never known an older male who had provided a positive parental model. It was enough for me that we could be friends. At the end of his first 6 months here, he had allowed that I had become a Yoda to his Skywalker. But over the years, he changed his mind. He began to demand that I provide more of a parental role for him—but I began to feel the idealized image he had developed for a “father figure” was too much of a crutch for my liking. A second extended visit to Estrella Vista will give us both an opportunity to work out the details of the role I will play.

It seems to me that every responsible parent should strive to raise their kids in accordance with the words of business ethicist and originator of the Servant Leadership concept, Robert K. Greenleaf: “Do those being served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?”

Few meet this standard—even “good” parents. Note today’s mania for hyper-protecting and over-scheduling kids. Most of the parents I see in the course of my work are control freaks who seek to dominate their children, often resorting to all manner of bullying, violence, and abuse. (They, of course, are the worse of the worse, but I do wish I had a way of getting a fix on the true norm of parenting skills in America—which I suspect is unexceptional. In the light of recent allegations about Bill Cosby, what kind of father was Dr. Huxtable, really?) The King Brothers were isolated from others, locked into their house, deprived of phone, television, or other links to the outside world, and not given an opportunity to develop healthy and open interests, social skills, and relationships.

Derek has never said anything negative about them, but he was abandoned by every adult in his life—most notably, both his natural parents and even his foster parents, those poseurs of upstandingness and respectability, Frank and Nancy Lay. I feel nothing but contempt for these Bible-thumpers and “professional” educators, who took a child into their home for 7 years, and then precipitously dropped him as if a relationship with a child can be severed as guiltlessly and easily as one dumps an old girlfriend or divorced spouse when the going gets rough. People are not Kleenexes. Nancy Lay testified at the trial that Derek had become too “uncontrollable” and that the Lays were concerned for the “safety” of their 4 natural children, but I blame them more than anyone else for the inconstancy that led to the murder of Terry King. Events appear to have borne out their fears, but more than anything, I believe it was their abandonment of Derek that precipitated Terry’s murder. They are unloving, unreliable scum, and I believe they deserve to burn in the Baptist hell they believe in.

Come what may, I will always stand by Derek. I may not always succeed, but I will prove by my actions that my “pagan” morals are superior to the Lays’ so-called “Christian” ideals.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Band performing “Unfaithful Servant”


Weather Report

98° and Clear, Increasing Cloudiness, Thunderstorms in the Evening


damaged for life

terry kupers.

Psychiatrist: Damage to youth locked up with adults ‘can last for life’

Are we missing an opportunity to rehabilitate young prisoners by sending them to prisons made for adults?

by the Fault Lines Digital Team, Al Jazeera America

In “Forgotten Youth: Inside America’s Prisons,” Fault Lines examines what happens to young inmates when they are placed in adult prisons and investigates their claims of physical and sexual abuse. The film airs on Monday, July 20, at 10 pm Eastern time/7 pm Pacific on Al Jazeera America. | Click here to find Al Jazeera in your area.


Beginning in the late 1980s, nearly every state passed laws that made it easier to prosecute juvenile offenders as adults. The legal maneuvers were part of an effort to combat the fear of so-called “superpredators”—crazed minors whose unchecked immaturity might make them indiscriminate killers.

But a growing body of psychological and neuroscientific research has shown that minors are fundamentally different from adults and should be treated with regard for their youthful status by the criminal justice system. Recent US Supreme Court cases have reaffirmed these developmental differences, citing youth’s “capacity for change” and “limited moral culpability.”

Their age should make them more amenable to rehabilitation. But rather than receive services that are age-appropriate, kids in the adult system are often left to fend for themselves—and many are released from prison more psychologically damaged than when they went in.

prison madnessPsychiatrist Terry Kupers is the author of Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It. He explains that young prisoners are caught between two codes that are prevalent in lock-up: the prison’s rules and the male code. The rules are administered by the guards, but the prison code is enforced among the population. Inmates shouldn’t show weakness and can’t snitch on one another, even if one is significantly harmed or abused by another.

Fault Lines spoke to Kupers about the mental health impacts suffered by young people who end up incarcerated with adults and what services that they desperately need are being denied to them.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows:

Fault Lines: How is an adolescent brain different from an adult brain?

Kupers: We know from a lot of brain imaging studies, like PET scans (photon emission tomography), that certain parts of the brain are acting differently in adolescents than they are in adults. And certain parts are not very developed. For instance, what’s called the administrative function of the ego, which is in the prefrontal cortex, if we do a PET scan, we will see that there’s less development in that area than there is for instance in the temporal area, which is controlled by passions and anger and such.

What’s happening in adolescence is that the administrative functions of the prefrontal cortex are getting stronger and taking control of the more emotion-oriented parts of the brain. So the emotions are still there, but the individual has learnt to control their emotions and act functionally. And that happens in a sped-up fashion during adolescence. It’s happening all through life, but when we enter adulthood the patterns are pretty set.

In adolescence, they’re very much in flux. This is the reason why the Supreme Court has ruled that you cannot order the death penalty for adolescents. And the reason is that they’re malleable. Their brain is not entirely formed. They’re going through a very chaotic period in development and presumably they will come out the other end and be a different individual as an adult. So we don’t want to end their life during that critical phase of their development.

Fault Lines: What is the risk of having juveniles in a standard, adult prison environment?

Kupers: On average, juveniles are less prone to follow rules. They’re more impulsive. They don’t think very clearly about the consequences of their behavior. But if you put a number of juveniles in a system that is very rigid with many, many rules and very severe punishments when you violate a rule, it’s going to tend to happen that the juveniles are going to run afoul of the rule system and be punished. And so juveniles are going to tend to be in solitary confinement more often than their older peers.

Now besides that, there’s the whole dynamic of sexual assault and the prison code. I had one prisoner in another state who was 15 when he came to prison. The first thing that happened to him was that another prisoner grabbed his testicles on the yard. And he hit him very hard. And the reason was that he had been advised by older prisoners that if you don’t fight then you’re going to become a sexual slave.

So he fought very hard, and the officers come in and they say, “What happened?” And he knew enough not to say anything because if he told them what happened, he would be a snitch, according to the prison code. So they put him in solitary confinement and then he had emotional reactions to being in solitary and became very depressed and suicidal.

Fault Lines: How would you explain the longer term, damaging impacts of solitary confinement, particularly for juveniles?

Kupers: Let me start with a fairly emotionally stable adult. If you put an emotionally stable adult in solitary confinement, they eat their meals in their cell, they get out for less than five hours a week and they do everything in their cell with very few amenities. They may have pencil and paper, they may have a television with very limited channels. But they have no other activities, they have no meaningful activities, they’re mostly idle. They’re mostly isolated. They don’t talk to anybody except for the guard who hands them the food tray and not much conversation happens there.

image.adapt.990.high.FL_Forgotten-Youth_guards-chem-sprayThe average individual will become very anxious, will become very angry, will start pacing or cleaning their cell compulsively, will start having disordered thoughts. They all have trouble concentrating, they might have paranoid delusions and they’re going to have memory problems. They’re going to feel despair, which could be serious depression, it could be suicidal ideas. That’s what’s happening to the average mentally healthy adult in solitary.

Now if you add to that mix the adolescent, the adolescent has an incompletely developed brain. If you put an adolescent in solitary confinement, they will have more severe symptoms than the adult. And the reason is because they have less wisdom, they have less maturity, they don’t understand the experiences that are happening to them. So for instance, when they become despairing, they might actually kill themselves whereas an adult would think about it a little more. So all of the problems associated with solitary confinement are multiplied when an adolescent is put in solitary.

Fault Lines: What are the impacts that you’ve seen further down the line when those juvenile inmates are subjected to these kinds of punishments and that type of treatment? Is attempted suicide prevalent?

Kupers: There are two major risk factors for suicide that are at issue: adolescence—the rate of suicide during adolescence is very high compared to adult suicides—and solitary confinement. We have a stunning statistic that 3 to 7 percent of prisoners are in solitary confinement, and 50 percent of the successful suicides occur among them.

So putting someone in in solitary confinement, which is the usual punishment for almost anything in prison, therefore puts them at great risk of suicide. Now that gets multiplied by the fact that adolescents are vulnerable to suicide. So the same causal links that make people despair when they’re put in solitary are going to have an exaggerated effect on adolescents, and therefore the risk of suicides will be that much greater.

Fault Lines: For inmates, particularly juveniles, who attempt suicide, we’ve seen videos of what the facility’s response is in those situations. It’s extracting them from their cell, it’s dealing with them in harsh ways. What concerns do you have about the way the facility responds after a suicide attempt happens?

Kupers: First of all, there is a tendency among custody staff to think that someone who’s making a suicide attempt is malingering, or manipulating. And it’s just an approach on the part of staff—probably they’ve been manipulated by many prisoners and they’re just wary of that. It’s the wrong approach to use with someone who actually is suicidal.

We think of adolescents as manipulative. In response to the individual’s suicidal ideation or even telling the guard, “I’m afraid I’m going to hurt myself,” the guard’s first response is, “You’re probably trying to manipulate me.” Then they’re going to miss important clues that there’s a suicide in progress here. So that’s a very big factor.

The system is not set up really to deal with suicide. There’s very minimum mental health contact with the individual who is deemed suicidal. They’re put in a suicide observation cell, their clothes are taken away from them. All of their amenities are taken away. They don’t even get recreation while they’re in the cell. And then the mental health team comes each day and they ask them, “Are you still suicidal?” Well, before very long even the most seriously suicidal individual will say, “No, I’m not suicidal. Put me back in my cell.”

Now in a disproportionate number of cases, their cell is an isolation cell. And that’s the next mistake that custody staff make. They take them out of observation and put them back in their solitary confinement cell, and that’s where people commit suicide. They need frequent visits with the mental health team and they need to be involved in some therapeutic activities so they could work through the despair by talking to people about it. That doesn’t happen in prison.

Fault Lines: What has your experience been of guard culture and the type of mentality that exists in these facilities?

Kupers: There are among guards some very decent people, who try to take care of prisoners and particularly young prisoners. And yes, they do the best they can. They’re controlled by very strict orders. So for instance, if they’re counseling a youth who’s been sexually assaulted, and the youth tells them something, they are required to report that. So there’s a limit to their confidentiality. Now among guards, there is basically the same culture as there is among prisoners. It’s very misogynistic. That is, guards are very into acting tough, they lift weights, they build their body, they talk a lot in terms of domination and they boss the prisoners around. So they’re very tough.

image.adapt.990.high.FL_Forgotten-Youth_Kupers-Seb.1437082107903I’ve seen around the country situations where prisoners will mock someone. For instance a young and fair male in a prison, will be considered effeminate and will be called a series of terms like “honey” or “gay” or “woman,” and the officers will laugh. And the reason is because the officers share the same culture and the same misogyny, which is to basically derogate anything feminine in a man. So the expression of feelings is more feminine in the tough male culture. And walking in a certain way or showing weakness, all these things are looked upon negatively by the prisoners and by the officers.

A prisoner will say something offensive towards a prisoner like, “You’re awfully cute” or “I’d like to take you to my cell and I have things I want to do to you,” and other prisoners will laugh. Well, the officers will laugh. And instead of saying, “Wow, that means this prisoner is in deep trouble.  We need to do something immediately to make sure he doesn’t get sexually assaulted”—which would be the correct response—instead they just laugh, and then the assaults happen.

Fault Lines: Why isn’t there more public outrage about the types of things that happen in prisons?

Kupers: People are angry about criminals—that they robbed, that they hurt somebody, that they’re violent, whatever they did—and they want their vengeance expressed. They want to punish them harshly and people in general don’t think about the repercussions of that punishment.

Now there’s two parts to this: One is that what happens in prison is very secret. Prisons are closed-off institutions. Prisons tend to be located in far away places, for instance from the urban centers, and the rules for visiting are very strict, so many visitors are disallowed, or certain prisoners are not allowed much in the way of visiting. Visits are the main way we know what goes on in prison, because the prison authorities don’t publicize what’s going on. For the abuses to occur, the abuser needs to have an expectation of secrecy. So either the prisoner who sexually assaults a young prisoner or the guard who sexually or otherwise abuses a prisoner has to expect that they’ll never come to the public light.

Now in prison there are very obvious dynamics and factors that add to the abuse: One is crowding. We’ve been putting an unprecedented number of people behind bars because of drug laws, because most people who go to prison are going to prison on minor substance abuse-related charges. They don’t need to be in prison, they should be in a recovery program. However, we’ve multiplied the prison population in the United States by 10 times since the early 1970s. Crowding causes an increase in violence and makes the prisons less manageable.

We’ve also been systematically and incrementally dismantling rehabilitation programs in the prisons. When you put them in a crowded facility, there’s a lot of violence. They have to be violent to survive, and they don’t have much in the way of rehabilitation. The violence multiplies, and then what happens is that most people get out of prison. Ninety-three or 95 percent of prisoners will eventually be released.

The real question the public should be concerned about is not: What crime did the person do and how harsh we can make the punishment? The real question should be: Is what we’re doing to them in prison more likely to make them resort to criminal acts and drug abuse when they get out of prison or are they more likely to straighten out and become a productive citizen?

All of these forces add up to make the situation worse. And that’s why I say that the public idea that we don’t care what happens to them is really foolhardy. We should care! There are close to 2.5 million people behind bars today. That means there’s 10 or 20 times that many who had been in jail or prison. If they’ve been abused in prison and as a result of that abuse when they get out are more likely to resort to illicit substances and crime, then we’re making the crime problem in society worse.


Sebastian Walker is an investigative reporter and correspondent for the Fault Lines Digital Team of Al Jazeera. He was awarded the DuPont, Emmy, and Peabody for his reporting. He is shown above with Dr. Terry Kupers watching footage of an incident between a youth offender and prison guards.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Cypress Hill performing “Insane in the Membrane


Weather Report

99° and Clear, Clouds and Thunderstorms in the Afternoon and Evening


battle royale


A Battle Royale To Keep McDonald’s Out Of Historic Food Hub In Paris

by Eleanor Beardsley, National Public Radio
July 18, 2015

The US and Europe are in the midst of negotiating a historic trade deal that will create the world’s largest consumer market: some 800 million people. Despite promises that the agreement will create thousands of new jobs, there’s fierce resistance to it in Europe, especially when it comes to food.

Many Europeans say they want to preserve a way of life and eating that they say America’s industrial farming and multinational corporations threaten. A smaller version of that battle is being fought in one Paris neighborhood known as “the belly of Paris.”

beraud_les_halles-1879.hagginmuseum“Beautiful cherries and melons!” shouts a vendor on Paris’ rue Montorgueil, a street in the heart of “the belly.” For eight centuries, there was a massive food market here that fed the entire city.

Olivier Chavaren, who runs Coloratour, a sightseeing company specializing in food tours, says this neighborhood, where Julia Child once shopped, means something to the French.

“It’s the soul of gastronomy for the French,” says Chavaren. “Remember, for 800 years there was this covered market. It left so many traces in terms of food habits and shops that you see along this street.”

doisneaurobert19121994franmarchandesauxhallesparis2188838Though the Les Halles fresh food market moved out in the 1960s, residents say its legacy lives on in the small butchers, bakers, fishmongers and restaurants—some more than 200 years old—that line the streets here. And today some locals say their way of life is threatened by an American fast-food giant.

“People living here don’t want McDonald’s. Small business people of the street don’t want McDonald’s. Nobody wants McDonald’s,” says Olivia Hicks, who heads up the neighborhood’s anti-McDonald’s committee.

gettyimages-94897197_custom-6af8b047a739bfc5d6f4677b6e95c3e614cdbd3c-s900-c85She says a giant McDonald’s would irreversibly change a street that even holds a place in French literature.

“Stendhal and Balzac used to come here, and they’d talk about the restaurants of this street in their books,” says Hicks. “And once you have McDonald’s, it becomes like every other street in the rest of the world. Whereas for the time being, this street stays very typical and very Parisian.”

Hicks and her committee have been fighting the fast-food chain’s efforts to move into the neighborhood for the last four years. That battle has gone back and forth.

When a neighborhood council voted to keep McDonald’s out last April, a judge overturned the measure.

But this month, the anti-McDonald’s camp won a decisive victory: Paris city officials refused a building permit in an attempt to preserve the area’s traditional identity.

Still, Hicks and other committee members say the war is not over. They believe McDonald’s will appeal this decision. And indeed, in a statement, McDonald’s said it doesn’t comment on active permit applications.

Officials from the Paris chamber of commerce criticized the city’s decision, pointing out that McDonald’s employs 72,000 French people.

In fact, McDonald’s is very popular in France, and there are plenty of McDonald’s around Paris. Some 45 new “Macdos,” as the restaurant is known here, were opened in France last year, and the country is the fast-food behemoth’s second most-profitable market after the US.

So all is not black and white, even on rue Montorgueil. Daniel Rigattier has been selling cheese in his fromage shop here for 40 years. He has more than 250 different cheeses—”but that’s France,” he chuckles.

Rigattier says he has nothing against McDonald’s coming here, and it’s certainly better than another clothing store.

“At least it’s food,” he says. “And a McDonald’s will draw a lot of young people.”

“Besides,” says Rigattier, “it’s not McDonald’s that threatens us cheesemakers; it’s people going on diets.”


Groove of the Day

Listen to the youth cast of Oliver! performing “Food Glorious Food”


Weather Report

98° and Clear to Partly Cloudy, Thundershowers


change is beginning


Is it possible to let more people out of prison, and keep crime down?

by Martin Kaste,
July 16, 2015

friday shorts

super marioThe other day, my home health care nurse told me that her 93-year-old mother-in-law (who lives in Kansas) is afraid for our safety because we live so close to the Mexican border. She is concerned Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmàn may surface here.

Altiplano Prison, the facility from which Guzmàn escaped, is in central Mexico, farther from us than the length of Florida. I know that tunneling is a specialty of Guzmàn’s organization, but this great distance defies any sense whatsoever. Anyway, why would Guzmàn want to escape to the US? Mexico is so corrupt and incompetent at keeping him locked up, I should want to stay there forever.


d5a4f0730Now that we can clearly see what some astronomers rejected in 2006, I hope they will reinstate Pluto’s full-fledged status as a planet.

Just because it is small, does this justify Pluto’s designation as a “dwarf planet”?

We don’t deny “little people’s” status as members of the human race just because they’re short. Isn’t the word “dwarf” now politically incorrect? How can “dwarf” be acceptable when you’re talking about planets, but not when you’re talking about people?

pluto_sadJust because Pluto is smaller than the earth’s moon, does it justify such earth-centric thinking?

Just because it takes 248 Earth years for Pluto to orbit the sun, it still orbits the sun, albeit at a cockeyed angle.

Anyway, who gave anyone on Earth the authority to legislate what is and is not a planet? I am so outraged by this. I clearly have too much time on my hands.


cobwebs on the brainThe last time I cleaned up around here was before Christmas, and then it was only when I invited some people over for the Solstice and didn’t want them to see I am a total slob. Since the stroke I just haven’t had the energy.

Two weeks ago I finally became so disgusted, I decided that I had to do something about this and that I would have somebody come in a half-day a week and help me clean.

On Wednesday I went into a local business to fax some papers to a bail bondsman, and there was an attractive young couple in there escaping the midday heat. The woman—her name is Karen—told me she cleans houses for a living. Well, I am a pushover for beautiful women and Karen told me she had an opening on Friday mornings. So today is our first day.

As so often happens out here, any business arrangement usually involves a certain amount of barter. Karen will help me clean my house and I will help keep an eye on her daughter while she is here. I can always take a nap afterwards.

PS: Karen massaged my ego by saying the house “wasn’t that bad.” She said she’d seen much worse. But I know my late wife—who used to keep surfaces white-glove clean—wouldn’t agree. Anyway, in two or three more weeks you probably won’t even be able to recognize the place.


red flag


The other day I watched Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 1980 film The Shining for the umteenth time.

It comes as no revelation that this is a film about alcoholism and domestic abuse—factors we see all the time in parricides. It is about mental illness, too, about a father’s relentless slide into madness.

Jack Nicholson’s character Jack Torrance is an abuser and an alcoholic; the archetypal father dominating the powerless family; an angry man dominating a women; a raging father dominating his son. He cannot suppress the violence that alcohol releases. The Overlook Hotel, with its supernaturally-provisioned “Gold Ballroom” with Lloyd the bartender, is a catalyst that allows the horror to emerge. But Kubrick seemed to intend saying that the nascent horror was present in Jack Torrance all along.



The Shining took five years to make, and Kubrick deleted many scenes which were shot but eventually not used. In one of these scenes, Jack Torrance waits for the general manager before his job interview begins. He is seen in the lobby of the Overlook Hotel reading a Playgirl magazine with a story about parent-child incest on the cover. Kubrick was famous for being an obsessively detail-oriented director. So when Torrance is shown reading such a magazine in the lobby before he gets hired, it’s surely not meaningless. There’s no question that Kubrick intended for that issue of Playgirl to be there. I think that Kubrick was signaling that Torrance’s son Danny may have experienced sexual abuse in addition to the physical abuse detailed in the film. Regardless, no normal hotel leaves copies of Playgirl lying around, so the magazine would have served as an immediate red flag in the original version of the film.

I’m sure the deleted scene allows the action of the film to commence more quickly, but there is a part of me that wishes Kubrick hadn’t deleted it. The public needs to become more sensitized to the root causes of parricide. It needs to become more compassionate. I couldn’t help but wonder how a typical Colorado prosecutor would have dealt with the events which took place in The Shining. In the real-life cases of Nathan Ybanez and Jacob Ind, two different Colorado prosecutors passed over the facts of unspeakable abuse—including sexual abuse—which led to the parents’ murders as surely as Jack Torrance’s deeds led to his death. Both victimized sons received life sentences without the possibility of parole.

As horrible as a real murder is, sometimes it is as deserved and just as the death of Jack Torrance in a fictional tale.

shining boy at overlook hotel




How A Teenage Girl Who Gave An “Intimidating Look” Was Sentenced To Up To 5 Years In Prison

by Dana Liebelson, The Huffington Post
July 7, 2015
In suburban neighborhoods around the country, teenagers sass their parents and yell at their peers. Usually, they grow out of it. In Detroit, a 17-year-old girl who misbehaved was sentenced to up to five years in the adult prison system. Afterwards, she tried to kill herself multiple times and was subjected to a cell extraction by prison guards that a use-of-force expert called “wrong and clearly dangerous.”

Jamie, as we’ll call her, was initially sentenced to two concurrent six-month sentences for a fight with a family friend. She was given a special youthful status that allowed her record to be scrubbed clean, as long as she met certain good behavior standards. But she was sent to an adult prison to serve her time, and while there, she lost that status and was given a longer sentence for the same crime. Jamie’s saga was part of a recent HuffPost Highline investigation into the treatment of children in adult prisons.

Prison officials, for the purposes of that story, told The Huffington Post that Jamie had been resentenced as a result of misconduct during her confinement. Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, said that she “failed in every instance” to live up to the conditions the judge laid out.


But new documents obtained through an open records request, which arrived after the initial story was published, reveal that her disciplinary record appears fairly mundane. The only misconduct tickets she received prior to the new sentence were for defying an order and giving a guard an “intimidating look,” and yelling at an inmate who allegedly had slapped her on the back of the head.

The prison presented these two tickets to a judge, who revoked Jamie’s special youthful status and changed her sentence from six months in prison to between almost 11 months and five years, with some credit for time served. The prison also told the judge that she had “no motivation to be involved” in peer groups and missed school, which she was required to attend, according to Gautz.

But Gautz told HuffPost that Jamie was not permitted to attend school because she was in segregation, or isolation. He said she was not in isolation for disciplinary reasons. (A logbook obtained by the Huffington Post shows that Jamie has a history of being on suicide watch.)

Jamie is one of the plaintiffs suing Michigan for mistreating youth held in the adult prison system, allegations the state denies. Jamie was originally sentenced in January 2012 for throwing a brick at a family friend and breaking her glass mail chute. (Jamie denied the assault and the police report notes that the brick may not have, in fact, hit the friend.)

In a wealthier county in Michigan that includes Ann Arbor, kids with this status generally do community service, like helping out at the local science museum. Jamie was sent to serve her time at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, a prison that holds inmates convicted of crimes like first-degree homicide.

James Chylinski, the judge who sentenced her, said that for kids who come from unstable environments, the youth program, where some kids serve their time in adult prison, is an opportunity, “like sending them away to college.” He added, “It’s actually an effort to try to help them to lock them up, it’s less punishment and more trying to rehabilitate them, making them go to school.”

Jamie had at least three adult cellmates before her 18th birthday, including one in her 50s with a history of cocaine possession. In March 2012, she was issued a misconduct ticket for yelling, “I’m gonna whoop that bitch’s ass” about another inmate. Jamie claimed she made the statement because the inmate slapped her on the back of the head and when she reported it to correctional officers, they didn’t do anything. She claimed the inmate then threatened her again in the yard.

The next month, she refused to take down a cover from her door window and give her ID to a guard. (She told us she was changing her clothes and wanted privacy.) When the guard reprimanded her, she asked whether she was getting a ticket and refused to leave the guard’s desk area. The officer wrote, “Prisoner stared at this writer the whole time with an intimidating look on her face.” Jamie received a ticket for threatening behavior and disobeying an order.

“It’s hard to be here when you’re young, not having everything explained to you,” Jamie told HuffPost in an interview.


Gautz said there were “about a half dozen” reasons the judge could have revoked her youthful status.

“We rely on the staff at the [Department of Corrections] because they deal with this all the time,” Chylinski said. It’s very rare for him to have to revoke an inmate’s youthful status and there are a number of factors that go into his decisions, he said. “Every case is individual, but a lot of it has to do with attitude,” he said, relaying a hypothetical situation to make his point.

“Two guys come in front of you for stealing your car, and one of them came in with a suit and tie on and had both parents there, and you’re in school and everything else,” he said, “and the other one comes in with an old raggedy T-shirt with an attitude like, ‘Screw you, judge’—they have sentencing guidelines, the guidelines for each of those people because of their prior record, or lack of it, would be the same—but as a judge would you treat them the same?”

Advocates contend that this case only shows that teenagers are not adults—and adult prisons are not equipped to deal with them. “At 17, you are literally still going through puberty and hormones are changing,” said Kristen Staley, associate director of youth justice policy at the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency. “Moreover, factors such as early trauma or mental illness can stunt this growth … MDOC staff is not thoroughly trained to handle teenagers and this [incident] is a clear indication of that.”

Amy Fettig, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said that “it seems to me Michigan is giving up on some of its kids for no good reason.” She added, “That’s a weekend of a teenager who is maybe having a bad day, it’s certainly not somebody who is a threat to the community.”


Dana Liebelson is a reporter at the Huffington Post, covering politics and privacy. Previously, she worked as a staff reporter for Mother Jones magazine. Her work has appeared in Marie Claire and The Week.



Groove of the Day

Listen to the University of Michigan Marching Band performing “The Fight Song”


Judge Chylinski, you’re an ass! You should be sent to “college” to see what it’s like.


Weather Report

97° and Clear


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 190 other followers