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Teenagers in adult prisons demonstrate high suicide rate

Published On: 08-14-2015 in Category: Depression, Mental Health, Prison, Suicide, Teens


Teenagers in adult prisons face several challenges most children do not have to endure. Some may live in a “sink or swim” environment that eventually pushes them to the breaking point. According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, teenagers in adult prisons are twice as likely to commit suicide when compared to imprisoned adults. A report from the Campaign for Youth Justice in 2007 also found that these teenagers in adult prisons are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than juveniles in juvenile detention facilities.

Even after being released from prison, the effects of prison life on a teenager can linger, potentially harming their mental health. An example of this issue was noted in a 2014 New Yorker article based on the life of Kalief Browder, who served a three year stint in Rikers Island Prison. He spent his time there waiting to be put on trial for stealing a backpack. His case never went to trial, but the prosecutor eventually dropped the charges and Browder was released. Browder attempted to commit suicide three times while in jail. In June of 2015, two years after he had been released from jail, he made another attempt at suicide and succeeded.

Browder’s brother spoke of the transformation in his personality due to the harsh living conditions in prison. Browder lost weight and showed signs of severe depression. While in solitary confinement, he was fed rations of food through small slot and eventually found himself begging the officers for leftovers. Oftentimes, this request for more food was declined. Browder was taken out of solitary confinement in the fall of 2011, but was put back in by the end of the year due to a prison brawl. On February 8, 2012, Browder tried to hang himself using his bed sheets. After this incident, he was taken to a clinic and then thrown back into solitary confinement. Browder told his brother that his magazines, sheets and clothes were removed. He was left with nothing but a white plastic bucket.

This story marks a problem with entering convicted teenagers into adult prison systems. Teens are more vulnerable to assault from fellow inmates and often do not receive adequate mental health care. The adult prison system’s harsh living conditions and lack of mental health treatment often proves counterintuitive, as teens are sent to adult prisons to reform and learn to function as normal members of society.

Some of these problems could stem from the fact that many adult prisons do not offer the same counseling resources as juvenile facilities. Juvenile facilities offer services aimed at preventing teenagers from further committing crimes and being incarcerated as adults. Like any other teen, a young inmate can prove impressionable, potentially adopting harmful habits from those they meet in prison.

For many teenagers in adult prisons, they are serving relatively small chunks of time, as compared to others who are sentenced to life in prison. These inmates who are serving life sentences can be more inclined toward violent behavior because they see no hope of ever getting out. In some cases, these teenagers come out in worse shape mentally than they did when they came in.

Approximately one in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental illness every year and most of they do not receive the treatment that they deserve. Drug Rehab Centers of Long Beach can assist teens and adults in finding the right treatment program for their conditions. If you know someone who is struggling with a mental illness and is in need of treatment, please do not hesitate to call. You may reach us at 888-530-4614. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and our treatment specialist will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.

Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer

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