About

Juvenile In Justice is a project to document the placement and treatment of American juveniles housed by law in facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist and, occasionally, harm them. 

Girls in Justice, the much-anticipated follow up to Juvenile in Justice, turns our focus to girls in the system, and not a moment too soon. With a preface by Marian Wright Edelman and essays by Leslie Acoca, Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm, and Mariame Kaba, Maisha T. Winn.

Juvenile in Justice the book, with essays by Ira Glass of This American Life and Bart Lubow of Annie E. Casey Foundation, can be ordered here. For more information about the Juvenile-in-Justice exhibition, visit the exhibition page

Order the book here.

The work has been published on CNN, SlateWired.comNPRPBS Newshour, ProPublica, and Harper's Magazine, for which it was awarded the 2012 ASME Award for Best News and Documentary Photography. The project has been generously supported by grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Center for Cultural Innovation.

Learn more about the project, view images by site, and follow the blog: 
www.juvenile-in-justice.com

The booking bench at a youth detention facility.

I’ve been here two months now. The first time I was here was on a burglary charge. I was 14. Two other times I was here for cutting off my house arrest bracelet. Old charges that popped up and they sent me back downstairs from the courtroom down to detention. (Often the juvenile court is in the same building as the detention center to protect kids from sight and sound exposure to adults.) My P.O. is having a placement meeting for me. My dad, mother, and grandmother visit. Sometimes my sister visits. She is 17. My dad and mom don’t live together. My mom lost custody a couple of years ago. I was about nine years old. My mom and dad have both been involved with me. I was never in a foster home. My grandmother has been raising me for more than six years. I’m in regular high school classes, but we have about 12-13 kids in each class. We do a lot of work on computers there. I have always been falling into a bad crowd. Only a few of my family members share the same behavior—my uncle and my god brother. They’re not in any gangs—they just like to be out on the streets. What does “on the streets” mean? Having fun, getting money— the easy way of doing what they enjoy doing. They hustle and look for easy money. It is hard and very, very tempting, but best to stay away from it. My mom is at home with my sister. She straightened up her life after she got out of jail. She completed probation. She drinks here and there but she doesn’t smoke anymore so I’m proud of her for that. A drink here and there or a smoke here and there is normal. It’s not like kids don’t know what they are doing is wrong. They are just not thinking of the consequences. When we do things like “hitting licks”—robbing someone or breaking into a house—it’s a way to make money. People use that phrase everywhere. “Me and my friend just hit a lick on a house down the street for $500.” I always stuck with school. I always had good grades. No one every checked on my homework. No one. My grandmother is responsible for me. —N.K., age 17

A youth being fed in a smock, which is designed to prevent youths from self-harming in detention facilities.

The narrow hallway of a youth detention facility.

I got a ticket for armed robbery when I was 12. The foster parents I had would hit me and my little sister. We ran, but we didn’t have any place to stay because my brother was in lock-up. I was running away when I was eight and my sister was six. The foster father I was with sexually abused us and then to get back at him we would hit their children. My mom was gang affiliated. When she heard my foster parents were hitting me she showed up with a gun. So the police put out an order on us because they thought she was a danger to us. Both my parents were gang members. They never fed us, they were selling drugs out of our house and we would be wandering around the streets with my brother and sister looking for food. —J.W., Age 15

This is unit 67. I’m 16 years old. I’m from Richmond, Virginia. I been here four months. I have to stay here for one whole year. I haven’t gotten any visits yet. I live with my mother, my stepfather, and my little brother. My dad’s incarcerated for child support. He has other family too. My mother is a caregiver. My brother is eight. I think he’s in first grade now. I’m in the ninth grade. I’m in special ed. The treatment here helps us figure out our cycle and how to not reoffend. I’m still doing my treatment. They give me drugs here. They give me debucal, conodeine, Adderall, and resperdone. They have me diagnosed as ADHD and bipolar too. I like to Rap. I rap right off the top. Sometimes I write out poems. My clothes are in here. They’re all uniforms. My mother smokes and drinks and so does my stepfather--nothing excessive though. I used to smoke weed, but I stopped since I been here. I’ve never been in here before but I’ve been to juvie. I caught a couple of stealing charges, assault and battery and malicious wounding. I had cut somebody with a piece of glass. With malicious wounding you have to draw blood to get the charge. It’s a felony. I was 12 years old when I first came into the system. —K.C., age 16

I’m getting my 72 hearing. That’s means I’m supposed to be heard within 3 days. I came in yesterday. I’ve been here three times before. First time I was 14. I live with my mom, stepdad, five brothers and three sisters. My dad lives in Northport. I stay with him sometimes. I’ve been suspended from school because I didn’t do my work on time. I was suspended twice and then they put me in here. I’m hoping I get 28 days in boot camp and then can go home. I never got a chance to go to regular school. I stayed in alternative schools most of my life. I was originally charged with DV (domestic violence). I was with my sister who is 14 in her friend’s mother’s car. I was in the front seat and my sister wanted to get into the front seat, so she called the police because she knew I was on probation for my school suspension. —M., age 15

A dummy simulates strangulation at youth detention center.

My first time here. I have been here seven months. I came in August for armed robbery. My mom and grandma visit me. Sometimes my uncle and my little sister come too. I got braces a year ago. I’m in 10th grade. I am in special ed. My Mom is a manager at Wendy’s. She’s 35. She had me at 19. My dad is deceased. He had cancer. He died when I was 12-years-old. I was cleaning up the pod. Someone asked me if I could get the 72 hours in lock-up pod. They take my mattress every morning. They want us to be cold while we are in the room. I’m hungry here too. I’m in room nine. The CO’s call it “The cold room.” They agree with Devante. —E.J., age 16

I’ve been here four times. This time I’ve been here a week. I’m from Watts. I live with my mom and my grandma. My brothers and sisters live with my stepdad. I’m gonna go on placement next week. I’m in sixth grade. I want to be somewhere else, so I take the car. I don’t know where I go, I just drive. My feet can sort of touch the pedals. I taught myself to drive. I go ’til I run out of gas. I cant really read the signs. It doesn’t matter. I don’t go nowhere, I go anywhere. I just drive. —C.B., age 11

I was 15 my first time here. I did 3 ½ months first time. Now I have been in and out six times. I had an escape charge for leaving a residential health center. There were 24 other kids in the cottage. They tried to charge me with stuff. They identified me as a Heartless Felon, but I’m not. When I was in here I had to keep fighting. People in here want you to argue with them and want you to fight them. When they move me around here they put handcuffs on your hands and sometimes on your feet. It depends on where staff is taking me. They leave enough space for my wrists sometimes. —T.D., age 16

An empty cell.

I’m here for robbery and abduction. I was physically and emotionally abused. I was in foster homes probably 2 years ago. I been in 4-5 foster homes. They just move us around and around. My little brother and little sister moved with me. My mom and dad used to fight so my mom had an order against my dad and he violated it so he got locked up…and my mom got on drugs. I went into foster care when I was like 7 or 8. My foster mom would push me around and hit me and stuff like that. —L., age 14

A youth being transported by two corrections officers.

The unit hallway of a youth detention facility.

I was here six times. The first time I was 13. I live with my mom, step dad, sister and two brothers. My mom visits me once or twice a week. I had a lot of VP (Violation of Probations). I broke an iPhone so they called it criminal damage. My Mom called the police. They have me in programs like New Directions for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. I did the program from July 1st to October 15th. 14 Weeks. I was on pills like Xanex and Molly. I experimented with anything and everything. I used the program to learn how to cope with my life. There are better things to do than drugs. It was a mandatory program where I was a resident. It was lock down treatment. I violated probation by having arguments with my mom. I violated the rules of house arrest. At age 14 I picked up an MIP (Minor in Possession) for alcohol and weed. My mom sent me to Alabama when I was 12 to live with my dad. He was a drill Sgt. in the army. He would wake me up at 4:30 AM and beat me if I didn’t wake up. He would give me $20 at the beginning of the week and tell me to get my own food. He worked in the Post Office after he left the army. I told my mom how bad it was for me, but she thought I was just saying that. I got myself kicked out of his house so I went to live with a friend. My father came and kicked the door down. He pretty much beat me. I had a black eye and bruises. He put me on a bus back from Alabama to Ohio by myself. I have been here a month now. The judge knows I keep on getting into arguments with my mom. I am going to go to Lakewood College and then to Kent State and do a degree in Psychology….if I ever get on track. CPS was never involved. My parents always wanted all the issues to stay in the house. After the fight in Alabama, I had so much resentment, I kind of raked out. My sister is a 4.0 student. My grandma is not my actual grandma. She went through a lot of physical and sexual abuse when she was little. My Mom went through the same. I think my mom sees a lot of myself in her. She treats me badly. She sent my little sister to my dad’s house as well. Ever since I left Alabama, I never spoke to my dad. He does things like calls on HIS birthday, not mine. He only thinks of himself. —F.E., age 17

I’ve been in the timeout room for two days. I’ve been in detention four times. The first time I was 13. I’ve been in isolation eight times. The longest time was two weeks. Any time they hear my name they lock me up. Any conflict or altercation they lock me up. Doesn’t matter who’s to blame they lock me up. They won’t let me tell my side of the story. When I was 13 I got caught with a gun and some marijuana at the movies. I bought the gun for $60. I just want a gun so I can handle a situation myself. I got the $60 by hustling, just selling marijuana. —E., age 16

I’ve been here before for trespassing and VP (violation of probation). The original charge was GTA (grand theft auto). I thought my mom wasn’t coming to visit and I got mad and broke the sink off. My dad is deceased. He died of cancer when I was 5. I’m here because of a lot of suspensions and fighting. Kids were talking trash about my dad and telling me I’m a fat dumb ass. My mom works as a teacher. This is my first time here. I thought I was going to get out tomorrow but I caught another charge with breaking the sink. My house is just me, Mom, two brothers, 18 and 15, and my sister. —O.J., age 13

I first came here when I took some of my brother’s coke and he got mad and told my mom. She was tired from work so she burned me with cigarettes and hit me with an extension cord. I was seven years old. I can’t talk about it without getting angry. I haven’t seen her is eight years. My dad tried to help me but he was on crack. My grandmother can’t help. Her life is messy. No one could see that I was suffocating. I don’t have a pimp. I am doing it on my own. It’s a rough world. I was having sex with police officers in Birmingham. —C.Y., age 18

Youth in their neighboring cells.

A relateively new hemispherical building with a system of six "houses" acting as radiating spokes from the circumference. Each house has three separate units and differing populations.

I’m 14. I’ve been here 7 months. I was 12 when I first came in here. I came in for fighting my brother. My mom, dad, Little brother, and sister visit. I’m in for 15-21 (months). My dad is African American, my mom is white. My oldest brother is home now. He was in DOC. I am here for robbery and abduction. I was physically and emotionally abused. My aunts hit me, foster people and stuff like that. I was in foster homes probably 2 years ago. I been in 4-5 foster homes. They just move us around and around. My little brother and little sister moved with me. My mom and dad used to fight so my mom had an order against my dad and he violated it so he got locked up…and my mom got on drugs. I went into foster care when I was like 7 or 8. My foster mom would push me around and hit me and stuff like that. I don’t have any kids. I’m on lock so I wear orange. If you keep on getting institutional charges they put you on IBRU… it means 30 days lock or something like that. I get an extra charge for destruction of state property. —L, age 14

I did the artwork. I’m here eight months. I am waiting for trial. The case was bonded over to the adult system. Most were charged or in the process of being bonded over. My mom and stepfather would visit. My dad is deceased. He was shot when I was six or seven. I was 14 when I was in ODYS Juvenile Prison. They tried to say I was in the Heartless Felons. It is a Cleveland prison thing. It started in Youth Detention System. My mom always had custody of me. No one ever sent me to treatment. There was never any of that, just punishment. My mom tried to get me counseling once. They prescribed meds like Aderol for ADHD and Ridilin at night. When I was 14 I got an aggravated robbery with a one year gun specification. That’s an extra one to three on the sentence. They never charged me with gang stuff. Guns? Most good guns go for around $250. My father died from a gun so I am scarred by that. I didn’t really need counseling. I have a good relationship with my mother, but not with strangers. My mom is a good woman. She is unemployed and doing hair in the house. She is a respiratory therapist looking for work. She is also going to school. I live with her and three sisters. Here there are other kids that are older, but many of them are in ODYS and some younger ones like 11 or 12. The staff here are bullies. They abuse their authority. I think I am on attempted murder. I can get 12-15 if I lose. They offered a plea of six to eight. I have a paid lawyer. They will expunge my record when I am older and I hope I can go in the military. GV stands for Garden Valley neighborhood. Hill Top Bitch is the projects. HN4L is Hill Niggas for Life. They killed a couple of kids from my neighborhood. My dead friends are written here. They all died last year—all of gunshots. —O.S., age 18

I’m 17 years old. I’ve been here four months. I’ve been in this room four months. I’m wearing a smock to prevent me from hurting myself. I hurt myself. Why? I want to commit suicide. I don’t talk to a therapist. They ain’t doing no good. We go to school in the building. We go the whole day. I can’t have nothing. No books. I pass the time by just sitting here. No friends. I talk to the girl across the way. They allow me to talk to her. I get out of here for an hour a day. I sit and look and stare at space when they let me out. —B.H., age 17

The blood is on the wall because I hit my head against the wall, a couple of times because I was mad at the staff. They wouldn’t get me out of this smock. —B.H., age 17

Various shackles and restraints used to control youth detainees.

Two youth look from their respective cells at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center. There was a ten-year-old in custody in the facility earlier in the day, but the director got him out almost immediately and was disconcerted that he was brought there. The boy's grandmother was in an argument with him, called 911, and insisted he be brought to detention.

A youth about to be transported, restrained using 5-point metal shackles.

I was here six times. The first time I was 13. I live with my mom, step dad, sister and two brothers. My mom visits me once or twice a week. I had a lot of VP (Violation of Probations). I broke an iPhone so they called it criminal damage. My Mom called the police. They have me in programs like New Directions for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. I did the program from July 1st to October 15th. 14 Weeks. I was on pills like Xanex and Molly. I experimented with anything and everything. I used the program to learn how to cope with my life. There are better things to do than drugs. It was a mandatory program where I was a resident. It was lock down treatment. I violated probation by having arguments with my mom. I violated the rules of house arrest. At age 14 I picked up an MIP (Minor in Possession) for alcohol and weed. My mom sent me to Alabama when I was 12 to live with my dad. He was a drill Sgt. in the army. He would wake me up at 4:30 AM and beat me if I didn’t wake up. He would give me $20 at the beginning of the week and tell me to get my own food. He worked in the Post Office after he left the army. I told my mom how bad it was for me, but she thought I was just saying that. I got myself kicked out of his house so I went to live with a friend. My father came and kicked the door down. He pretty much beat me. I had a black eye and bruises. He put me on a bus back from Alabama to Ohio by myself. I have been here a month now. The judge knows I keep on getting into arguments with my mom. I am going to go to Lakewood College and then to Kent State and do a degree in Psychology….if I ever get on track. CPS was never involved. My parents always wanted all the issues to stay in the house. After the fight in Alabama, I had so much resentment, I kind of raked out. My sister is a 4.0 student. My grandma is not my actual grandma. She went through a lot of physical and sexual abuse when she was little. My Mom went through the same. I think my mom sees a lot of myself in her. She treats me badly. She sent my little sister to my dad’s house as well. Ever since I left Alabama, I never spoke to my dad. He does things like calls on HIS birthday, not mine. He only thinks of himself. —F.E., age 17

Two youths share a cell.

I'm coming from Newport News Detention. Not far. When you get committed you come to RDC. I have no idea what RDC stands for. This is my first time here. I've been here a week and five days. I am don’t know who else is here. I came straight here. They had a hospital at the last place. Don’t know the name of it. I had the surgery there. I punched the wall in the bullpen. There was a window and I punched it. I’d been there for a while. I got caught up in the wrong stuff. When you go into the courtroom, you stand in front of them and they basically say right there in front of you “guilty for this charge, you’re going to DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice).” You’re guilty of whatever charge the put on you, like assault if you're guilty for an assault charge, you go to DJJ. Coming on the 27th will be my third month of being locked up. I went to see the judge and that’s when I got committed to DJJ. I don’t know how long I’ve been committed to. RDC is supposed to let you know how much time you have. Not most judges say time, it all depends on what charges you got. The judge knows what the charges are but he doesn’t tell us. It all depends on what kind of charge you have, so you get committed for 30 days and then they let you know how much time you got. At home, I’ve got my mama, my two brothers, and my grandma. My brothers are 14 and six. My dad is locked up. He’s in Chesapeake, in Indian Creek. He’s in for armed robbery. There’s no man at home. My mom’s boyfriend is locked up. He’s in Newport News City Jail. Her boyfriend cool. He’s in for various things. He’s in for a probation violation, I don’t know what the original charges were. My mom’s 33 or 34. My mom just got out, so she’s lookin' for a job now. My mom was charged for contributing to a minor. My friend was on the run and me and my friend were both on the run. Since she helped us he cut off his wrist bracelet. So she got arrested for contributing. My original charge was for a second probation violation. I’m not gang affiliated. Maiming is when you fight somebody and break they bone. It was gonna be jumped up to malicious wounding, but my lawyer dropped it down to a misdemeanor, so it’s just a simple maming. Was on the street when it happened. I’m in ninth grade but when I get out I’ll be in tenth. I haven’t had one visit yet. I’m the only drug and alcohol user in the family. I smoke weed. Triple C’s, I forget what it stands for. Some of them do white widow, which is marijuana and coke mixed together. And gasoline. Some people are doing crocodile. That’s what some people are doing. It’s gasoline and eye drops. They shoot it up, but I don’t do that. mixed together. I don’t know how it gets you high but it does, and it eats up your skin. And some other people are doing acid. —E., age 15

I’ve been here twice. I live with my great grandmother. She’s 85. I don’t know where my mother is. I know my daddy is incarcerated. He has been there about eight months now for drug trafficking. My mom went to jail numerous times for selling drugs. She was incarcerated when I was born—so was my dad. My great grandma adopted me. She was given full custody when I was born. I’m in 10th grade. I have a couple of units of general stuff. I have one younger brother and a younger sister. I see them twice a year if I am lucky. I think my mother takes care of them. I don’t even know where she is or even her phone number. I saw them at a family gathering once. We don’t have a good relationship. I feel she abandoned me and I never had a chance to really be. She put so much pressure on my great grandmother to take care of me without giving no help, no support. I am here for aggravated robbery. Wrong place, wrong time. I was with two males when they snatched a phone. I was guilty by association. I have been here a month now. This is my first time in. I think I get out the next day. I was in for a PV for cutting off my ankle bracelet. I had an aunt and cousin both dying of cancer. My aunt and my cousin both passed. I went to their funeral. I don’t look at this as punishment but as a learning experience. Monday I go talk to a judge and either I go home or they make me stay. But I know this is not the place for me. There is one kid here that I know from my neighborhood. —N.I., age 16

A closet where riot gear is kept, in case of emergency.

My name is Taylor Adams and I am 14 years old. My stuff is all outside my room, because my room got sanitized. It means you get nothing in your room. When your room is free of all things that were in your room before. You get no mattress or anything until they give it back to you. It’s been like this for about 2 hours. They do that because I was banging my head. I was mad because I was getting new charges. I was 13 when I first came into the system. I turned 14 in here. My Mom and my two sisters and my grandfather visit me. My Dad is in Detroit. He works at Chrysler. My Mom was 21 when she had me. The food here is ok. I’m in for 6-12 months. I came her 4 months ago. I’ve been in isolation since 6:20 AM today. The most hours you can get for isolation is 72 hours. I only have 23 hours for attempting to circumvent security. Circumventing is like a threat to security. I can lie down but there is no mattress. It’s not comfortable. You get back pains and neck cramps. —U.B., age 14

This is the second time I’ve been here. I’m here for 10 days. First time I was here was for 8 days. I had a domestic violence with my auntie. Another time it was DV and shoplifting, but my sister grabbed a jacket from the store and threw it to me. My mom has alcohol problems. My auntie has legal custody. My dad’s deceased. He died of throat cancer. I was 12. I’m in eighth grade. I smoke now and then, even though my dad died of cancer. I’m here because I was in my room, I got angry and I put the dresser against the door and then I went into the closet and went to sleep. My auntie called the police and told them I was planning on killing my younger brother, but that’s not true. I just wanted a quiet place to sleep so I went into the closet. But the police didn’t believe me. —M.R., age 14

A corrections offices supervises a youth inmate after he removed his belongings from his cell.

Two youths share a cell.

I’m here in isolation. It’s a lock unit. Isolation Behavior something… rehabilitation unit… I don’t know. I been here 2 months, a month and a half. You get an hour out a day, but say you got seven residents, you might get out the end of the day for a little bit, sometimes I play checkers during that time. I been in isolation for a month and a half. I used to be in my groups, but I started WILD’N’ OUT. I used to take too many trays, like three breakfast trays, four lunch trays and three dinner trays. I didn’t care. I took them because I was hungry. I was OK with the consequences so I took them and ate them. You gotta behave to get out of here. I was supposed to leave today. I’m waiting for a superintendent to sign for my release. I’m here or in Open Pop, either way I’m still locked up. I was 11 or 12 when I was locked up. I be here in my room thinking I’m just a juvenile. There are people in jail that are 15, 20 17 years. I was writing to my Dads cellmate. He told me 80% of the kids here are going to be in prison, in DOC. You can lead a horse to the pond, but you gotta wanna change. You gotta stay humble. I know I’m small, but my pride gets in the way sometimes. I gotta watch what I say. It only takes one minute to take somebody’s life. —U.X., age 16

This is my first time here. I’ve been here for five days. I was in Sylmar for five days also. I’m going to placement. When you go to placement, you don’t want to go to 5 Acres. You’re in your room all day there. I’ve never been in placement; never been in a foster home. My mom visits me. So does my grandma. My dad is back in prison on a charge of domestic violence. One of his girlfriends charged him. I’m in 7th grade. I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old sister. The kid in the next cell was chanting my last name. Then he started saying “fuck Blacks,” so I started chanting “fuck Mexicans.” He was saying he was going to beat me and every Black person up. He’s a racist. I do nothing but count bricks here. It’s boring. I think I may be here six months…I don’t know. I live in Lancaster so they want to place me close to there. When I was at Sylmar I was at level three, then they put me on level two. I told them I wanted to hurt myself. I saw other kids walking around with staff and asked them how come. They say, “You just have to say you thinking about hurting yourself and you get privileges.” So I did it out of boredom and frustration. But I regret it. I told them I didn’t mean it so they moved me to level two. But the kid in the next cell said the same thing and they took him off levels completely. After the commotion last night they shut off the water in the cells. So there is no water or toilet today. But they will turn it on again. -U.Z., age 12

A young boy peers through his cell door.

I'm from Norfolk, Virginia. I'm in 11th grade. I'm not in special ed or anything like that. I've been locked up for 15 months. Since I was 16. I was 16 when I first went into a facility. My grandparents, my cousin, and my uncle visit me here. My mom and dad are dead... somebody killed them. That’s kind of why I’m locked up. I killed them. I snapped. No drugs were involved, I don't do drugs. It was knives, and a bat, and a crowbar. You probably heard about it before. It was on CNN. On the local news. Over a span of nine months. It was a combination of things. It was mostly between me and my dad, my mom was just collateral damage. There was physical and emotional abuse. Me and my dad would get into fights a lot. I never said anything so CPS was never involved. My mom would usually come in and break up the fight. It's been going on since I was in elementary school. I don't know what age but elementary school. I try to look at the bright side of things, I can get out at 43 or at best I could get out in my 30s. I might try to get a job. I'll take some college classes while I'm in DOC. I'd like to get a job as a graphic designer. It's still a long time. It's more that I've been alive. Most of my life I’m gonna be locked up. And this is my first time ever catching a charge, it's crazy. I can't take it back so I gotta move on. My parents were 57 and 56. He was ex-military when I was born, they were 39 and 40 when I was born. I don't have any brothers or sisters. I had snapped multiple times before but never at a person, it would be towards objects. I would break bottles and jars of porcelain things like that, it was never directed toward somebody. I mean, my hand was bleeding but I never went to the hospital. They were talking about therapy but that never happened. I used to be on ADHD medicine. When I was in here I started taking ADHD medicine again but I tried to kill myself in here. I wrapped longjohns around my neck, there was blood coming out of my mouth and everything, I tried to try hang myself. An officer can by and took me down. I know what caused it, most of my extreme emotions are extremely divided and with my ADHD I’m able to distract myself from a lot of thoughts. —W.Q., age 17

A child in the padded isolation cell of a youth detention facility.

Santa Maria Juvenile Hall, Santa Maria, California

I’ve been locked up for 21 months. I haven’t been sentenced yet. — D.P., age 16 Bridges Juvenile Center (Spofford), Bronx, New York, a secure detention facility built in 1957 with a maximum capacity of 75 kids, closed March 2011.

A 12-year-old juvenile in his windowless cell at Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Biloxi, Mississippi, operated by Mississippi Security Services, a private company. There is currently a lawsuit against MSS that forced it to reduce the center’s population. An 8:1 inmate to staff ratio must now be maintained.

I have been here about three weeks. I got picked up for VOP. Not much to do here. Mostly I write on the wall. I really don’t want to talk to you. —A.W., age 16 Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center, Biloxi, Mississippi.

A young girl at Maryvale, an all-girls level-12 institution in Rosemead, California.

I’m waiting for my mom to come get me. Is she in there? She’s at work today. I want to go home. I got in trouble at school today. —R.T., age 10 Jan Evans Juvenile Justice Center, Reno, Nevada. R.T. was brought in from school by a policeman. He stabbed a schoolmate, but it is unclear what the tool was, a pencil, knife, fork . . . He was waiting to be picked up by his mom, who couldn’t come get him until she got off work for fear of losing her job. He was checked on every five minutes. The director of the facility recalled an eight-year-old being brought in for taking a bagel and stated, “This is not the place for these offenses.”

I’ve been here for two weeks, and this is my third time in. I’m in the sixth grade. I was in placement but I ran away. They accused me of assault against my mom, but she scratched herself and said I did it. My dad lives in Atlanta and works in a barbershop. -E.Y., age 11 Juvenile Detention Center, Houston, Texas.

I went to day school next door to this place for eight months. When I went back to regular school I got in a fight in three days. A kid was calling my mom bad names. I punched him and left school and started beating up a car. Cops came for me and I wouldn’t put on my seat belt when they put me in their car. So that was another violation. I told them I didn’t want to come back here . . . but here I am. I’ve been here a week and have a week to go. I’m “sanctioned” for two weeks. —N.R., age 12 Douglas County Juvenile Detention, Lawrence, Kansas.

Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center, Caldwell, Idaho.

B.P., age 18, is self-abusive, not taking his meds, combative, and won’t think twice about hurting staff. He is being held in the crisis intervention unit, on 24-hour supervision. He is wearing only his underwear. Half the staff is female, and thus they will supervise a male, although they don’t watch him shower or use the bathroom. His clothes are removed when he goes in the unit to prevent him from hanging himself. MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, Woodburn, Oregon.

C.L has made a career out of being a juvenile system resident. He is 17 and has been in the system since he was 12. He sees no future for himself and claims the judge hates him and will never let him go home. He was in a psychiatric institution in Las Vegas. He thinks he will go from here to a group home rather than his own home. When he was in the psychiatric hospital, the staff let him do what he wanted as long as he didn’t bother them. He didn't participate in any program for almost a year- now he refuses to be in any type of program. He tries to make deals with the counselors, ex. ”If I can call my mother, I will behave,” instead of conforming to the system in place, which rewards juveniles with calls home for participating in their program. C.L was part of an escape recently, he is a smart kid. He has daily talks with counselors. In the observation cell he is not permitted books, pens or pencils and is observed every five minutes. He claimed that his meal tasted like shit, so he shit on his tray. Nevada Youth Training Center, Elko, Nevada.

A 15-year-old girl on suicide watch, under constant surveillance. In this behavior unit the residents become extremely jumpy and verbal when any event breaks their routine. At the moment all the girls are in their cells. In the entire facility, approximately 75 percent of the population have mental health needs, and of these, 67 percent take psychotropic medication. The construction paper names on the wall celebrate the corrections officers that work the unit. Macon Youth Development Campus, Macon, Georgia.

I’m doing my “seg time.” I spend all day and all night in here. No mattress, no sheets, and I get all my meals through this slot. — J., age 16, in a segregation cell in South Bend Juvenile Correctional Facility, South Bend, Indiana.

South Bend Juvenile Correctional Facility, South Bend, Indiana.

Control room to monitor juveniles, Racine County Juvenile Detention Center, Racine, WI

Giddings State School, in Giddings, Texas houses 320 juveniles and three types of offenders— capital and violent offenses, sexual offenses, and chemical and substance dependency.

The “Wall of Shame,” at Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Miami, Florida: mug shots of kids that were released from the center and killed by gunshot wounds. “Expired” here indicates “deceased.”

Probation hearing room at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, Camarillo, California

Control room at Racine Detention Facility, Racine, Wisconsin Twenty-three young men, undersupervised, at Orleans Parish Prison, Louisiana. There was a fight the night before, so staff has taken away privileges of TV, cards, and dominoes. The air conditioner is broken and it is August in New Orleans.

I was with a group of guys when I was 13. We jumped this guy near the lake. We got about $400. They gave me the gun ’cause I was the youngest. I been in Juno cottage for two years. I was coming back from the med unit with a homie and we broke into the canteen through a window and ate all the candy bars we could find. He got sick and we only had a five-minute pass so they caught us. I got sent to Valis but got played by a staff there so they sent me here to Martin. —S.T., age 15 Ethan Allen School, Wales, Wisconsin.

This is the first time I am here, ever. They are charging me with armed burglary of a residence. —K.T., age 16 Turner Guilford Knight (TGK) Correctional Center in Miami, Florida.

The court says I got to be here four months. I’m here for burglary, and I got ten open cases or more of past burglaries. I’ve been here six times, I think more. My parents don’t live together. I never attended school outside the center. I went to a program called CAT [a youth outreach program] and spent six months in a moderate risk program. I have three brothers and a younger sister. Another sister died when she was very young. —A.N., age 18 Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Miami, Florida.

I don't do drugs. Just some weed. I have a girlfriend here. And on the outs. My parents are real catholic. They say God doesn't like you being with girls, but they’re glad that I do, because that way I won’t get pregnant. She’s been in almost three months. But she’s a good girl. Yeah, they would describe me as part of the Eastside Gang. No, I haven’t been sexually abused. But God thinks I can do better with my life, and He knows I will do better. — K.N., age 15, Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, Downey, California.

I spent a year at TGK [Turner Guilford Knight Correction Center]. I was at the center for nine days on charges of home invasion, kidnapping, armed carjacking, aggravated assault, battery, and armed battery. All the charges were dropped to juvenile. If the charges had been filed as adult, I could get ten years’ prison time. I’ll probably serve three years — half of that if I behave well. In TGK, I was never able to touch my mom. After my first release from the center, she hugged me for the first time in over a year and we both cried and cried. All the visitation here is in the gym. It’s set up for a hug with a parent and then you can sit holding hands. —S.M., age 15 Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Confinement Unit, Miami, Florida.

Cook County Detention in Chicago, Illinois. Each floor is one mile around. The basketball court gives a sense of the scale.

No one has visited me here. No one. I’m not here for a status violation. They got me charged with more than that. I talk to the judge tomorrow. I have to touch the wall for doing what they call “antisocial” behavior — only a “procedure violation,” nothing big. I’ve been touching the wall for a while now. Doesn’t matter what part of the wall I touch as long as I have some part of me on the wall. I am trying to get some sleep here. —J.B., age 17 Hale Ho’omalu Juvenile Hall, in downtown Oahu, Hawaii, built in the 1950s, now closed.

Ethan Allen School, Wales, Wisconsin.

L.T., age 15, first time in custody, at King County Youth Service Center, Seattle, Washington

I was 13 years old with my boyfriend. We were both extremely high. We were burglarizing a house in the high desert. The owners came in... and the crime escalated. I’ve been in this cell since I was 14, sharing it with another woman ever since. I think it’s seven by ten. I’ve been eligible for parole, but on four different occasions the families of the victims were present to speak against my release. If it was my family, I would do the same, but I am a different person at 20 than the drugged child I was at 13. Now I’m the head of a women’s firefighting unit that works with locals and assists in brush clearing, mud slides, and forest fires. I’m due for release in four years and three months. I age out of the system. They have to let me go when I turn 25. —C.H., age 20 Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, Camarillo, California

A cell in P-Hall, the transitional unit at King County Youth Service Center in Seattle, Washington. Juveniles go to P-Hall after intake for evaluation and hall placement. More difficult kids also dorm here when they need more supervision. P-Hall has very high ceilings to prevent kids from breaking off sprinkler heads.

Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility in Albany, Oregon is the only girls-only facility in the state. They are part of the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA). Oak Creek has 75 beds and the average length of stay is 138 days.

I live at home with my mother, ten-year-old brother, and stepfather. I don’t know my real father. I hate school and have been suspended. I spend my time at home hanging with my friends. I have two older brothers and one older sister, all in their twenties, and they all don’t live at home. I have been at King County for about a week and have been here three other times. They’re thinking of moving up my charges to Robbery one. I might be going to a decline status, not an auto decline, a person-on-person crime. I might be going to Residential Treatment Center to break the detention cycle... they tell me. —D.P., age 16 King County Juvenile Detention Center, Seattle, Washington.

Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center, Mendota, Wisconsin

Ethan Allen School, Wales, Wisconsin

Giddings State School, Giddings, Texas

Racine Juvenile Detention, Racine, Wisconsin

Juvenile Detention Center, Houston, Texas.

I was at the packing plant for about 16 months. I come here to St. Bridgette’s for help. Father Paul does his best for us. ICE had a big raid, lots of trucks and men with guns and helicopters. They deported most of the people but kept some of us to go to court against the owners. They had a lot of minors working here. All of us were from the same little village in Guatemala. We live in houses that the company owns. I think they let me stay because of my baby. —R.T., age 16 Postville, Iowa.

They come in once a day and do a search of my room. Everything I have in there, everything, goes out — including the inside of the mattress and a body search — once a day. It happens any time. Random. I was arrested for assault against a 13-year-old girl. It’s sort of all right, but it also really sucks. You have to listen to officers and do exactly what they tell you to do. I’m the only girl in here, so it’s boring and lonely. I’m here for VOP [violation of probation]. I was at home with an ankle bracelet but ran away to Juárez with my boyfriend and another couple. They got married in Juárez. I got mad at my mother and started throwing chairs and cut my ankle bracelet. I’ve been here four months now. —D.M., age 14 Challenge Program, Juvenile Detention Facility, El Paso, Texas.

I hope I get out in March. Mostly depends on my level of achievement. We stuck in here today because one of the guys in our cottage didn’t feel like getting out of bed, so we all stuck here. We have class here today too. I been here awhile but I want to go back to my home in north St. Louis. They let you wear your own clothes here. —B .D., age 16 Soaring Eagles Cottage in Hillsboro Treatment Center, Missouri. B.D. had his hand on his crotch under a sweatshirt. The director, Betty Dodson, said, “Take your hand off your imagination.” He laughed and brought his hand up.

Camera monitoring of the isolation room at St. Louis Detention Center, St. Louis, Missouri

Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility, Albany, Oregon

A restraint bed in the safety room of the Community Treatment and Psychiatric Health Facility in Torrance, California.

I was picked up for probation violation. I’m not happy being here . . . even less happy having to stay here. I just met with some people from the court, CPS, and probation, I think. They told me I “turned the corner.” —B .R., age 14 St. Louis Detention, Missouri. When a juvenile is brought in, a meeting is held with a court officer, Child Protective Services agent, and other authorities to determine if the child will go home into family custody or stay at the detention center — this is known as “turning the corner.” This girl has turned the corner: she has to stay at the facility, and she’s miserable.

I’ve been here for a week. I think they call this the observation room. I go to class in the morning and then comes back to my room. I don’t like to read and there is no TV to watch. I sort of sit here, eat here — you know. I was supposed to come home today, but my aunt didn’t come. I can’t live with my mom or dad. I’ve been here three times before. This is the longest. My aunt doesn’t visit . . . she never sure when the visiting days are. Actually I didn’t tell my aunt that I’m here [she has to be notified]. —G.P., age 14 Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center, Caldwell, Idaho. G.P. is “low functional,” as described by the detention head, who tells me that Child Protective Services is involved as well. G.P. has very slow mannered speech. He has been charged with battery against his aunt. The striped suits, which are standard issue here, have been banned in other states as early as 1904 for being “too dehumanizing.”

I got kicked out of school for partying and truancy. I use meth. They have had me here for two weeks. I think they keep me here because they think I am a risk of hurting myself. When they want to come in, they come in, they don’t knock or anything — this is the observation room. There are five other girls here I think for things like running away and curfew violations...lewd and lascivious conduct, selling meth, robbery, weed... stuff like that. —C.T., age 15 Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center, Caldwell, Idaho.

I am a transgender female. They have me living in an isolation area for the past seven months I think to protect me against suicide, but also keep me sort of away from the other girls. I live on the street with older friends who are part of “that life.” They’re mostly people who are positive about who I am but also got involved in stuff like burglary, drugs, and prostitution. I don’t mind being separate from the other girls, but I miss the interaction. —A.S., age 17 Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF), Kailua, Hawaii.

I have two more days here, or less, then I go to an adult facility. I was convicted (with several co-defenders) of killing one of my friends’ mother. I was 16, and it was a series of events — bad peer pressure and alcohol. The oldest of my friends — co-conspirators — was convicted on four counts. He was over 18 at the time so he was convicted as an adult. He has successfully appealed three of the convictions and had them overturned. He’s waiting for the results of the last appeal. I’m the only one out of the four kids involved that received life without parole. I want to apply for clemency but can’t find an attorney that would take it pro bono. I don’t have the money for an appeal. I thought I might get 30 years to life but ended up with life without parole. I was convicted right after Measure 11 passed, from a small town where they wanted to set an example of how to punish juveniles. It appears that the Department of Corrections has become the Department of Punishment. We went to Canada and were at the border in a stolen car after we planned for about four or five hours how to kill the mother. We fled and were stopped at the Canadian side. I was brought back and interrogated by one woman and two male detectives from Oregon. I am not sure if I was Mirandized. There was no one that advocated for me in the room while I was being questioned. I have been here seven years with DOC rather than OYA. I age out of here in two months and hope I go to Salem, where I might have the friendship and protection of Chris Cringle, who is somewhat notorious . . . look him up. I can either give up or try and do something with my life. I took a lot, so I am trying to give back by having received a paralegal degree through Blackstone. My biological mother and stepdad were a very bad crowd. My stepfather was a scummy street person. I’ve been given two life sentences. — S.P., age 24 MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, Woodburn, Oregon.

I’ve been here a week this time. I’m on court order to stay isolated from the other kids. I was in foster care for about 11 years and now I am adopted. They got me for residential burglary when I was in seventh grade, but since then it has been lots of probation violations — late for school, not appearing for my P.O., stuff like that. Drug Court probably saved my life. My mom is into drugs and my dad was deported to the Philippines. I have three sisters but we are all split up. The only person who visits me is my YMCA drug counselor. Lunch? It was junk. —C.C., age 16 Hale Ho’omalu Juvenile Hall, in downtown Oahu, Hawaii, built in the 1950s, now closed.

Juveniles in the Challenge Program sit in their cells at the Juvenile Detention Facility, El Paso, Texas.

A female juvenile with scars from cutting herself that read “Fuck Me.” At Jan Evans Juvenile Justice Center, Reno, Nevada.

I’ve been here three days. I was charged with running away from a group home. And also larceny and seven more runaway charges. I took my mom’s car and then tried to evade police. So I got an assault. My dad lives with my stepmom — both are heavy drinkers. My dad is a construction worker. My stepmom takes all my dad’s attention. She’s an accountant. My mother gave up custody of me last year. She is schizo, bipolar with psychotic tendencies. She works at a hospital. The eye? I got into a fight with my girlfriend. She punched me so hard I went flying across the room and got a road rash on my shoulder. My eye looks a lot better now. I got hit two weeks ago. My girlfriend is a big track and volleyball player. She hit me because I used to have drug and alcohol problems. I said I would stop drinking, but I came into her house drunk. She lives with our best friend, E. She was living with her family, but they moved away and left her. I hope E’s mother will adopt me or at least be my guardian. Before this incident I got Bs and Cs in school. It is pretty difficult being gay and Christian in a land of homophobes. Actually it’s pretty impossible here. — A.B., age 14 Tulsa County Juvenile Detention Center, Oklahoma.

I been here for three years and ten months and haven’t been to trial yet. My mother tried to stab me and kill me when I was asleep so I ran out of the house. I’m here on 12 charges: two armed carjackings, armed robbery, armed burglary, eight burglary, sexual battery, and gang charges. I don’t blame nobody, I just made a mistake. I was 13. —R.F., age 17 Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, Miami, Florida.

Intake at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, Downey, California

South Bend Juvenile Correctional Facility, South Bend, Indiana.

I’m here on medical transition from Miller Camp. I was there eight months. I’m in on three different second-degree robberies. My tats? I’m in the Fruit Town BRIMS (Black Revolutionary Independent Mafia Soldiers), part of the VNG (Van Ness Gangers). I want to go to Morehouse when I get out of here. —M.T., age 17 Central Juvenile Hall, Los Angeles, California.