Hard Time: A Special Report

Hard Time: A Special Report

From the article, which focuses on Tallulah as a prison in need of massive reform:

”It’s incredibly perverse,” said David Utter, director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. ”They have this place that creates all these injuries and they have all these kids with mental disorders, and then they save money by not treating them.”

In a recent interview, Cheney Joseph, executive counsel to Gov. Mike Foster, warned there were limits to what Louisiana was willing to do. ”There are certain situations the Department of Justice would like us to take care of,” he said, ”that may not be financially feasible and may not be required by Federal law.”

From their wakeup call at 5:30 A.M., the inmates, in white T-shirts and loose green pants, spend almost all their time confined to the barracks. They leave the barracks only for marching drills, one to three hours a day of class and an occasional game of basketball. There is little ventilation, and temperatures in Louisiana’s long summers hover permanently in the 90’s.

The result, several boys told a visitor, is that some of them deliberately start trouble in order to be disciplined and sent to the other section of Tallulah, maximum-security cells that are air-conditioned.

Guards put inmates in solitary confinement so commonly that in one week in May more than a quarter of all the boys spent at least a day in ”lockdown,” said Nancy Ray, another Justice Department expert. The average stay in solitary is five to six weeks; some boys are kept indefinitely. While in the tiny cells, the boys are stripped of all possessions and lie on worn, thin mattresses resting on concrete blocks.

The crowding, heat and isolation are hardest on the 25 percent of the boys who are mentally ill or retarded, said Dr. Hudson, a psychiatrist, tending to increase their depression or psychosis.

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