Recent changes regarding juvenile convicts is welcome news. President Obama has recently announced an executive action that radically changes how solitary confinement is implemented in the nation’s federal prisons. While new restrictions and guidelines have been put into place regarding solitary confinement for adult prisoners, solitary confinement for juveniles in federal penitentiaries will not be allowed at all due to the president’s action. In addition, the United States Supreme Court ruled recently that many convicts who received life sentences for crimes committed when they were juveniles would be able to apply for parole. The court ruled in 2012 that life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional.
Despite these positive steps, other challenges for juveniles convicted of crimes should not be overshadowed. A recent case in Florida makes this abundantly clear.
The 17-year-old inmate at Sumter Correctional Institution was accosted in the showers by six other inmates in 2013. The prison is an adult facility that also houses some juveniles. The 17-year-old was stabbed, beaten and sexually violated by the other prisoners. A lawsuit is now pending against a guard who was on duty near the showers at the time of the assault. The Orlando Sentinel reports that assaults at this institution are not uncommon and the Department of Corrections has tried to curtail the problem with increased surveillance cameras. While this is laudable, there is reason to believe that these types of assaults are all too common not only at this prison but at similar institutions throughout the nation. When they happen to any prisoner, they are tragic and shameful. When they happen to our nation’s children, they are truly damning.