Privatization of the US youth prison industry handed soaring profits and a history of brutal injustice to its incarcerated youth and their families. The Walnut Grove story is a cautionary tale that raises alarming questions about the treatment of youthful, mostly nonviolent offenders in Mississippi and elsewhere. And it calls into question the wisdom of turning over the care of these youths, some as young as 10, to private companies that exist solely to turn a profit.
Source: AlterNet –
Michael McIntosh couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He had come to visit his son at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility near Jackson, Miss., only to be turned away. His son wasn’t there.
“I said, ‘Well, where is he?’ They said, ‘We don’t know.’”
Thus began a search for his son Mike that lasted more than six weeks. Desperate for answers, he repeatedly called the prison and the Mississippi Department of Corrections. “I was running out of options. Nobody would give me an answer, from the warden all the way to the commissioner.”
Finally, a nurse at the prison gave him a clue: Check the area hospitals.
After more frantic phone calls, he found Mike in a hospital in Greenwood, hours away. He was shocked at what he saw. His son could barely move, let alone sit up. He couldn’t see or talk or use his right arm. “He’s got this baseball-size knot on the back of his head,” McIntosh said. “He’s got cuts all over him, bruises. He has stab wounds. The teeth in the front are broken. He’s scared out of his mind. He doesn’t have a clue where he’s at – or why.”
Though he had found his son, McIntosh still had no answers. He said prison officials wouldn’t allow him to see his son again for months. No one would tell him what happened – that is, until he received a phone call from a Southern Poverty Law Center advocate who was investigating Walnut Grove.
“When I was at my wit’s end and couldn’t get anywhere, an advocate from the SPLC actually found me,” McIntosh said. “She said, ‘Your son was in a riot.’ They [SPLC] just took bits [of information] and started putting this puzzle together. Without them, we wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.”
Mike suffered brain damage. A U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report about the conditions at Walnut Grove later noted that after weeks of hospitalization, his “previously normal cognition resembled that of a two year old.”
In the dry language typical of such reports, the DOJ investigators wrote that on February 27, 2010, “a youth melee resulted in the stabbing of several youth, as well as other types of physical injuries necessitating treatment at an outside hospital. One of the injured youth … suffered irreparable brain damage and sustained a fractured nose, cuts and stab wounds.”
And no one bothered to tell his father.
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