Taking a Glimpse Inside a Youth Prison in New York State

By , February 15, 2010 8:19 am

THE guard made Edwin a deal.

He was an aspiring ultimate fighter, and he wanted to practice his holds. If he won, he would take the candy he knew Edwin had hidden in his desk. If he lost, he would bring Edwin some takeout from Burger King.

They grappled once, then a second time. The third time, the guard lifted Edwin and flipped him onto the floor, hard, though not enough to cause any lasting injury. But, Edwin said ruefully, “he got all my snacks.”

For Edwin, it was just another day at the Highland Residential Center, a drab collection of run-down cottages planted in a forest not far from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., part of a state juvenile prison system under fire for its abysmal and sometimes dangerous conditions. He spent five months in a small, airless room at Highland last year, sent by a Queens family court on a graffiti charge, after a journey from skipped classes to drugs and alcohol, through counseling programs and failed stints in city-run group homes.

Highland is one of New York’s 28 prisons for youths, most of them black or Hispanic boys from New York City. A state task force concluded last year that the entire system — currently holding more than 800 youths — was fundamentally broken. It now faces a federal takeover and a class-action lawsuit.

via Taking a Glimpse Inside a Youth Prison in New York State – NYTimes.com.

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