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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/13/09

Judges Paid to Send Teens to Juvenile Detention Centers

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Kevin Gosztola
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Think of yourself at the age of seventeen. Think about the current terrain in high schools across America and what it takes to “fit in.” Not too much has changed in most instances, but think about the fact that Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites now exist and affect what teens do or do not do.


Now, consider this case in Pennsylvania, a case that right now centers around the reality that “two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.” One of the victims of this alleged scheme was Hillary Transue.


A caption under a photo of Transue (featured with MSNBC’s news story on the corruption) explains that she was “sentenced to a wilderness camp for building a spoof MySpace page that lampooned her assistant principal in White Haven, Pa., on Friday. Transue says she did not have an attorney, nor was she informed of her right to one, when she was sentenced by Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella.”


First, what’s a “wilderness camp”? Sounds like the stuff of dreams---a place where mothers and fathers can send brain-damaged youth or undisciplined adolescents, a place where parents can send their children when they have to admit they just couldn’t teach their children well.


A “wilderness camp” is not a chance for Johnny or Susie to go learn an appreciation for nature or wildlife. Rather, “wilderness camp” is, as one “camp” in Utah, Second Nature, says, therapy to “help your teen discover the reasons behind his/her actions” so he/she can “make healthy choices concerning the future.


“Recovery programs” help children with substance abuse, hyperactivity, anger, oppositional behavior, attachment issues, identity issues, teen depression, manipulation fueled by high IQ, sexually acting out, attention, deficit disorder impulsivity, and learning challenges.

As Second Nature explains, “Because wilderness is unrelenting and comprehensive, teens must proactively respond to this fresh, challenging environment. They must consciously make choices knowing that they are completely responsible for the outcomes.”

“Because of the abundance of real challenges in the wilderness and its clear metaphor, our program safely mirrors the family and social lifestyle with structure, boundaries, feedback, relationships and challenges.”

If you happen to doubt the idea of “wilderness camps”, than perhaps, you instead are thinking that “wilderness camps” are places like juvenile detention centers, places for---not youth, teens, or adolescence to go but juveniles---to become just another cog in the machine.

Juvenile detention centers have become a place where cruelty and death occur more and more each day, but don’t expect your favorite local or cable news network to report this reality. “Cruelty and death in juvenile detention centers” was #18 on Project Censored’s Top 25 Censored Stories of 2009.

An Associated Press survey published in March 2008, which involved contacting “each state agency that oversees juvenile correction centers and [asking] for information on the numbers of deaths as well as the numbers of allegations and confirmed cases of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by staff members since January 1, 2004,” the AP found that “more than 13,000 claims of abuse were identified in juvenile correction centers around the country from 2004 through 2007—a remarkable total given that the total population of detainees was about 46,000 at the time the states were surveyed in 2007.”

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for OpEdNews.com
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