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: 

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.