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Custody and Control
Conditions of Confinement in New York’s Juvenile Prisons for Girls
When they restrain kids. . . [t]hey’d have rug burns all over their bodies. . . . They hold your arms back and they purposefully push your face in the rug. They have their knee in your back and your arms all the way back. I’ve been restrained before so I know.
—Stephanie Q., incarcerated at age 16
There’s only one teacher, but everyone’s in a different place, so it’s not good. They try to give you a book and tell you to study out of it.
—Alicia K., incarcerated at age 15
I asked to talk to the ombudsman probably every day. They [facilities staff] said, “OK,” but it never happened. It’s my right to call but they wouldn’t let me talk to him. Or the other thing they’d say is “Tell me what you’re going to tell him.”
—Felicia H., incarcerated at age 17
There is growing recognition that people incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons often suffer from abusive treatment and neglect. When those abused are children who have been placed in juvenile facilities ostensibly for their rehabilitation, public concern is justifiably heightened. Media stories and public debate about troubled children tend to focus on the delinquent behaviors of and state responses to boys. However, an increasing proportion of the children being put behind bars are girls. In New York State, the proportion of girls taken into custody has grown from 14 percent in 1994 to over 18 percent in 2004.
This report focuses on the two large, prison-like facilities in which girls in New York state are confined, namely, the Tryon and Lansing facilities, and concludes that, far too often, girls experience abusive physical restraints and other forms of abuse and neglect, and are denied the mental health, educational, and other rehabilitative services they need. Because of the facilities’ remote locations, confined girls are isolated from their families and communities.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is the state agency whose Department of Rehabilitative Services administers juvenile facilities. Although OCFS is charged with rehabilitating children over whom it takes custody, it often fails to serve, and even to protect, confined girls, and this failure continues because there is little or no meaningful oversight of conditions in OCFS facilities. This last point is critical. Internal monitoring and oversight of the facility are, to put it charitably, dysfunctional, and independent outside monitoring is all but nonexistent. As a result, the conditions in the Tryon and Lansing facilities addressed in this report are shrouded in secrecy and girls who suffer abuse have little meaningful redress.
Human Rights Watch investigates conditions in juvenile facilities in the United States and around the world and we have found OCFS to be among the most hostile juvenile justice agencies we have ever encountered. Despite repeated formal and informal requests over a period of several months, we were denied access to the facilities themselves. Working through channels independent of OCFS, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU (HRW/ACLU) made contact with children, family members, and others with relevant firsthand experiences and knowledge. Ultimately we were able to speak with only 30 formerly incarcerated girls directly, but what we found, as detailed below, is serious cause for concern: the state of New York is failing to watch over OCFS, and OCFS is failing the girls in its custody.
The majority of girls in Tryon and Lansing are fifteen or sixteen years old, although some are as young as twelve. As with incarcerated persons throughout the U.S., a disproportionate number of girls confined in New York are African-Americans from families who have lived in poverty for generations, with parents or other close relatives who themselves have been incarcerated. In many cases, these girls fall into juvenile facilities through vast holes in the social safety net, after child welfare institutions and schools have failed them. In the wake of legal reform in 1996, girls who commit “status offenses” such as disobedience and running away from home are no longer supposed to be placed in custody, but such offenses—and the related issue of involvement with child welfare agencies because of parental abuse and neglect—continue to function as gateways through which particularly vulnerable children are drawn into the juvenile justice system.
Of course, the immediate cause of a girl’s incarceration in the Lansing or Tryon facilities is her commission of a delinquent act, that is, an act that would be a criminal offense if committed by an adult. Such acts include assault, occurring in many cases during family or peer altercations, theft offenses including shoplifting, and other crimes. A judge ordering a girl to be placed in a specific type of facility signals his or her expectation that the girl will be confined at a particular level of security and provided with appropriate, specified services. Unfortunately, conditions in the facilities often are markedly different from what many judges envision. In reality, all girls sent to Tryon or Lansing are confined in a prison-like physical environment where they may be at risk of abuse and where promised services are often not delivered.
One of the most troubling abuses is the use of inappropriate and excessive force by facilities staff against girls. By interviewing formerly incarcerated girls and examining agency documents, HRW/ACLU have documented the excessive use of a forcible face-down “restraint” procedure intended for emergencies but in fact used far more often. In a restraint, staff seize a girl from behind and, in a face-down posture, push her head and entire body to the floor. They then pull her arms up behind her and hold or handcuff them. We found that the procedure is used against girls as young as 12 and that it frequently results in facial abrasions and other injuries, and even broken limbs.
According to human rights standards, physical force may be used against confined children only as an emergency measure to control a violent or self-destructive child and only when all other means of control have failed. Physical force is never acceptable as punishment, yet that is exactly how force sometimes appears to be used at Lansing and Tryon. Many girls told HRW/ACLU that the face-down restraint procedure at times was used punitively for minor of failings by girls, including, in the most egregious cases, improperly making their beds or not raising their hands before speaking.
Girls confined in Tryon and Lansing are also at risk of a range of sexually abusive behaviors. HRW/ACLU documented three specific cases over the past five years of staff having sexual intercourse with girls. Sexual abuse short of intercourse also occurs in the facilities, ranging from verbal innuendo, to observation of girls in states of undress by male staff, to unwanted touching. Girls also report that staff make publicly humiliating comments revealing girls’ past sexual history, or experience of abuse, or a medical condition such as infection with a sexually transmitted disease. Lesbians as well as girls who do not conform to staff stereotypes of girlish behavior are sometimes harassed by staff and other girls.
Girls incarcerated at the Tryon and Lansing facilities are also subjected to security measures beyond what appears to be strictly necessary and in some cases contrary to OCFS’s own official categorizations. The facilities examined in this report are designated by OCFS as “secure” (one part of Tryon, referred to as Tryon Secure), “limited secure” (Lansing), and “non-secure” (another part of Tryon, referred to as Tryon Girls). According to OCFS, girls sent to the “non-secure” portion of Tryon “do not require the more restrictive setting of a limited secure facility.” Yet both the “secure” and “non-secure” portions of Tryon consist of barracks-like units surrounded by layers of razor wire. Girls’ activities are tightly controlled and their interaction with each other is limited. In fact, there is little discernible difference between Tryon’s “secure” and “non-secure” units.
Throughout Tryon and Lansing, all girls are bound in some combination of handcuffs, leg-shackles, and leather restraint belts any time they leave the facility. Girls are also subject to frequent strip-searches in which they must undress in front of a staff person and submit to a thorough visual inspection including their genitals. All correctional systems must take appropriate precautions to maintain security and to ensure that weapons, drugs, or other contraband are not smuggled by transported prisoners. Nevertheless, these measures should be reasonable, proportionate, and objectively justified. The measures taken by OCFS are hard to justify as legitimate or reasonable security measures for children, many of whom have been found by judges to require a “non-secure” environment.
Tryon and Lansing provide haphazard and insufficient educational and vocational opportunities for girls. When a girl is ordered to a juvenile facility, she is discharged from her public school and the facility becomes responsible for ensuring one of her most basic and important rights—the right to an education. Classes held at Lansing and Tryon combine girls of varying educational levels and needs, and are insufficiently staffed with qualified teachers. Girls are therefore either intellectually understimulated or overwhelmed, and girls complain that the facilities’ main aim seems to be preparing them to take the General Equivalency Diploma exam, rather than helping them achieve a high school diploma. Both OCFS and the schools themselves fail to ensure that girls leaving facilities are properly placed back in public schools. The lack of reentry assistance provided to girls and poor coordination between facilities and schools likely contributes to the troubling fact that two-thirds of high school aged boys and girls leaving juvenile facilities do not re-enter regular public high schools.
When vocational training is available at all, that offered to girls is limited to stereotypically female pursuits such as culinary arts, cosmetology, and clerical skills. By contrast, comparable boys’ facilities offer a range of vocational classes providing marketable skills and nationally recognized certifications. These educational failings can amount to a crippling future disadvantage for incarcerated girls, exacerbating the pattern of intergenerational educational and economic marginalization suffered by many of the girls and their families.
In New York in 2004, of the children screened by OCFS for special needs when taken into custody, 48 percent had physical health needs, 52 percent had mental health needs, and 77 percent had substance abuse problems. Sixty-nine percent of screened children had multiple special needs. OCFS documents and the statements of administrators reveal that staff are aware of and concerned about the health needs of incarcerated girls. Serious failings remain nevertheless, especially where mental health services are concerned. Many incarcerated girls physically harm themselves and even attempt suicide, to which facilities’ staff frequently respond with punishment in addition to treatment. Mental health counseling by professionally trained staff is largely inadequate, and much “counseling” is instead provided by ordinary line staff without credentials or training in psychotherapeutic treatment.
Judges, attorneys, family members, and friends of incarcerated girls have little chance of learning exactly how girls in OCFS facilities are treated, not least because Tryon and Lansing are located hundreds of miles away from New York City, the place most incarcerated girls call home, and because girls’ access to means of communication is strictly limited. Girls are cut off from the outside world in other ways too. Once a girl is placed in an OCFS facility, she loses the state-funded lawyer who represented her in court, unless an appeal or other post-adjudication legal proceeding is underway.
Girls incarcerated in New York’s juvenile system who wish to seek redress for infringements on their rights have few options. In most cases, the only place to which they can turn is the same facility and at times the very same staff members responsible for the wrongs about which they are complaining. Girls’ primary means of drawing attention to problems they experience within a facility is the filing of written grievances. All of the girls HRW/ACLU interviewed said they found the grievance process frustrating and ineffective, most commonly because their grievances were ignored. Thus hidden from public scrutiny and without an effective mechanism for seeking redress, girls in Tryon and Lansing continue to endure harmful treatment and neglect.
One important reason that the abusive treatment and other problems described in this report continue is the absence of genuinely independent oversight of the Tryon and Lansing juvenile facilities. Combined with the facilities’ isolated rural location and restrictions on incarcerated children’s contact with the outside world, the facilities operate in an informational vacuum. Inadequate funding for existing monitors, such as the facilities ombudsman, as well as OCFS’s failure to maintain a functioning Independent Review Board as required by law, are partly to blame. The ombudsman’s office is also weak because it is part of OCFS, answerable to and physically located within OCFS headquarters. New York’s Child Protective Services (CPS) is likewise a sub-part of OCFS and its existence is not known to many incarcerated girls. Another established monitor, New York’s Office of the Inspector General, does not provide the necessary oversight because OCFS represents only a small piece of its broad mandate, and because it conducts no regular monitoring visits to OCFS’s locked facilities. Although judges, legislators, and other state officials have the power under state law to visit the facilities at will, this power is rarely if ever invoked. In response to efforts by outside investigators to gather information on how OCFS runs its juvenile facilities, the agency’s leadership has proven itself secretive and adverse to scrutiny, effectively leaving the public in the dark. Within this institutional scheme, children are left to fend for themselves.
The “key recommendations” below highlight immediate steps we believe OCFS and other state authorities must take to stop some of the most egregious abuses documented in this report. We then provide detailed recommendations for the state and local authorities with responsibilities affecting the conditions under which girls are incarcerated in New York State. Change is essential since girls’ near total isolation from outside eyes and ears allows abuses to continue undetected and without remedy.
[ Custody and Control.pdf
28 July 2006
Dominican Republic against abortion for rape victims
Dominican Republic lawmakers voted down Tuesday a proposal tabled last week to allow abortion for women pregnant because of rape.
According to a Catholic News Agency report, although it origi-nally looked as though the proposed change to the country's Penal Code would pass, a concerted effort by pro-life lobbyists persuaded House members to reject the clause in the final draft.
Bishop Ramon Benito, the Secretary General of the country's Bishops' Conference, emphasised last week that a child conceived because of rape is no more deserving of abortion than other children. "Just as there are centres of care for children, society must seek out solutions in favour of life for children who are conceived through rape, as well as quality care for mothers," he stated.
14 July 2006
"Die Mörder haben nichts zu befürchten"
In Guatemala sollen brutale Frauenmorde zunehmen
Nach Darstellung der Menschenrechtsorganisation Amnesty international (ai) ist die Zahl der Frauenmorde in Guatemala in diesem Jahr "erneut erschreckend gestiegen". Einem Bericht der Organisation zufolge wurden im Jahr 2005 mindestens 665 Frauen und Mädchen ermordet. 2004 wurden 527 Fälle registriert, in den Jahren davor 383 bzw. 163 Fälle. Die Tendenz deute auf eine weitere Zunahme hin: Zwischen Januar und Mai 2006 seien offiziell bereits 229 Frauen und Mädchen gestorben. Experten schätzen die Dunkelziffer jedoch viel höher ein, so Amnesty.
"Es gibt für die Mörder keinen Grund, aufzuhören, denn sie haben nichts zu befürchten", so Markus Kneissler von Amnesty. Nach Angaben des guatemaltekischen Ombudsmans für Menschenrechte komme es in nur drei Prozent der Fälle zu Verhaftungen, 70 Prozent der Morde würden gar nicht untersucht.
"Die Regierung von Präsident Oscar Berger muss diese eklatanten Ermittlungsmängel schnellstmöglich abstellen", fordert Kneissler. Jeder Fall müsse sofort und effektiv untersucht werden. Die Regierung soll nach Auffassung der Menschenrechtsorganisation auch eine Kampagne ins Leben rufen, "mit der der Gesellschaft signalisiert wird, dass es keine Toleranz gegenüber Gewalt an Frauen geben darf".
Viele Opfer stammten aus armen und von kriminellen Banden kontrollierten Großstadtvierteln. Hinter den Morden vermutet Amnesty Rache für abgewiesene sexuelle Avancen, Kontakte der Frauen zu Mitgliedern von gegnerischen Straßengangs sowie die Beseitigung unerwünschter Zeugen.
Guatemala: Killings of women on the rise in 2006
PRESS RELEASE/18 JUlY 2006
In a new report published today, Amnesty International revealed that killings of women in Guatemala have risen for the fourth consecutive year since 2001 as the government fails to effectively investigate and punish those responsible.
Over 2,200 women and girls have been brutally murdered in Guatemala since 2001. Up to 665 cases were registered in 2005; 527 in 2004; 383 in 2003 and 163 in 2002. 299 killings of women have been reported between January and May 2006 alone.
“Women’s murder rate in Guatemala is on the rise because there is no reason for the murderers to stop: they know that they will get away with it,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Amnesty International researcher on Guatemala.
According to Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsman, up to 70% of murders of women are not investigated and no arrests were made in 97% of cases.
In the few cases that are investigated, the process is usually flawed – forensic evidence is not properly gathered and preserved, few resources are allocated to each case and witnesses are denied protection.
On 4 July 2005, 26-year-old Clara Fabiola García was shot at in the town of Chimaltenango, south Guatemala and died in hospital short after.
Two years before, on 7 august 2003, Clara Fabiola witnessed the murders of 15-year-old Ana Berta and 18-year-old Elsa Mariela Loarca Hernández in Guatemala City. Her testimony was key to securing the 100 year prison sentence against gang member Oscar Gabriel Morales Ortiz, alias “Small”, in February 2005.
According to media reports, on receiving his sentence “Small” threatened Clara Fabiola García that she would pay for testifying against him.
Noone has been prosecuted for Clara Fabiola's murder.
Amnesty International's report also highlighted that in hundreds of cases, victims are blamed for their deaths.
5 May 2006, Guatemala's Chief of Police stated publicly that in order to prevent the murders of women it is necessary to “ask them not to get involved in street gangs and to avoid violence within the family, which we as police cannot do.”
“Past governmental initiatives, such as the development of new legislation, have yet to have any real impact on the numbers of women killed, or the ability of police and prosecutors to effectively investigate and bring to justice those responsible. Meanwhile the killings of women continue to rise,” said Sebastian Elgueta.
“The best prevention campaign the authorities can develop is to improve the quality of investigations: Showing that the lives of Guatemalan women have real value.”
Amnesty International calls on President Berger to take urgent steps to:
* Improve coordination and cooperation between state agencies;
* Strengthen the Public Ministry's Witness Protection Programme;
* Guarantee the availability of human and financial resources for the National Forensic Institute.
Amnesty International’s report reviews the development of cases of killings of women across Guatemala since the publication of “No protection, no justice: killings of women in Guatemala” in June 2005 and included 14 recommendations to President Oscar Berger and other state institutions.
18 July 2006
Guatemala: No protection, no justice - killings of women UPDATE
Figures and Cases
[ 18 July 2006
Guatemala: No protection, no justice: killings of women (an update)
[ 9 June 2005
No protection, no justice: Killings of women in Guatemala
12 July 2006
über mehrere monate wurde die 19 jährige tochter eines blinden bettlers von drei "einflußreichen" männer vergewaltigt.
nach mehreren monaten ,in denen sie täglich vergewaltigt und bedroht wurde, wurde die junge frau schwanger was ihre mutter bemerkte. die eltern der frau machten am 26. juni eine anzeige. kurz darauf bestätigte ein krankenhaus die schwangerschaft der frau. daraufhin überfielen bewaffnete männer am 3. juli die familie der frau und versuchten die frau zu vergiften. die familie wurde bedroht. die junge frau überlebte , der fötus ist tot.
die familie ist weiterhin bedroht, der gesundheitszustand der frau bedenklich zumal nach dem bericht die ärzte die frau nach einschüchterungen durch die polizei eine woche zu früh entließen.
PAKISTAN: Gang rape; violence against women, misuse of power, collapse of rule of law
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a blind beggar?s 19-year-old daughter was gang raped by three influential men for several months. Upon knowing her pregnancy, they forcibly poisoned her and killed the three-month-old fetus. Meanwhile, the police refused to protect the victim and pressed charges against her family to force the victim to withdraw her complaints against the perpetrators.
Miss. RP (the name is withheld to protect the victim's identity), the 19 year-old daughter of a blind beggar, was gang raped at gunpoint by three men about three to four months ago when she was harvesting alone on a corn farm in Goth Dur Mohammad Phawarh, Ghotki district, Sindh province, Pakistan. The three culprits named Saad Ullah (alias Soodho Phawrh), Usman Phawarh, and Abdul Karim Phawarh beat her as she cried for help. The fastened her mouth with a piece of cloth at gunpoint and all three took turns raping her. Furthermore, they threatened to kill her if the assault was reported.
Two days later, the perpetrators returned to her house knowing that most people would be away at work. They stripped her, forced her to dance, tortured her, and burned her with cigarettes before they tied her up to rape her again. Since the three men were influential landlords with strong connections and support from the local police force, they threatened that they would make sure her entire family got life sentences if she told anyone about the attack. Her fear silenced her as the rape continued daily until she was three-month pregnant.
The victim's mother told her husband about the incident and they lodged a report to the Ghotki police and subsequently a case of rape was filed on 26 June 2006 against Saad Ullah, Usman Phowarh and Abdul Karim with the Ghotki police station. But the Ghotki police delayed their response in arresting the culprits and only arrested Saad Ullah and Usman but not Abdul Karim, as he allegedly had good connections with the police. The arrests of the two men were also made only after the intervention of local journalists.
After the local hospital confirmed her pregnancy, the culprits allegedly attempted to kill the victim and her fetus. On 3 July 2006, some armed men, two of which identified themselves as police officers, attacked the victim's entire family and forced poison down her throat. They threatened the family saying that if they went to the hospital, they would attack the family again. The victim was then hospitalized at Taulaqa hospital Ghotki some hours later and luckily survived with the help of Dr. Salma, but the 3 month-old fetus was dead. During her stay in the hospital, the Ghotki police allegedly forced the hospital to release her a week early from medical care. The victim's condition still remains serious.
A case of attack was registered against local gangsters namely Ghulam Nabi Aandal, Hazoor Bux Phawarh, Yaqoob Phawarh, Sohno Phawarh, Abdullah Phawarh and Mehboob Phawarh. But no one has yet been arrested. Meanwhile, in order to pressure the family to drop charges, the rapists simultaneously filed a petty case suit for fighting in the Sarhad police station against the victim's blind father Allah Rukhyo, her two brothers Abdul Haleem and Abdul Jabbar, as well as her uncles Basheer Ahmed, Ali Mohammad, Ghulam Nabi, and Abdul Wahab Phawarh. Subsequently, three of the victim's family members have been arrested by the police.
Pakistan has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 3 March 1996 and as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Pakistan also has accordingly established domestic laws for the protection of women. However, the rights and protection of marginalized people such as the victim are often overlooked by the government.
Looking into domestic legislations relating to rape case, Pakistani law is punishing victims of rape as though they were criminals while the perpetrators go free. The Hudood Ordinances are a set of laws in Pakistan intended to make the criminal justice system conform to Islamic law. Hudood Ordinances, which are inspired by Islam, cover offences including Zina crimes (unlawful sexual intercourse including adultery and rape) and Qazf (wrongful accusation of Zina crimes). They do not differentiate rape from adultery. The maximum punishment for Zina crimes is death by stoning. Many women are imprisoned for years, convicted or awaiting trial for Zina crimes.
In particular, these laws place an almost impossible burden of proof on women and girls who are raped. Under Hudood rules, a woman must have four male Muslim witnesses present at her rape to prove her case. All four must have an unblemished police record and be of unsullied reputation for their words to be accepted. Short of this, the victim is liable to be accused of adultery and sentenced to time in jail or to death by stoning. Under the circumstances, if they report a rape to the police they are often charged with Zina crimes because they have in effect admitted to sexual intercourse outside of marriage and been unable to prove absence of consent. In such cases, the victims are more likely to be convicted than the perpetrators. Even though there are some provisions relating to rape in the Criminal Penal Code of Pakistan, those provisions are not practiced in actual circumstances.
Meanwhile, many Hudood cases are pending before courts for several years. To settle this problem, the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan has ordered courts to settle cases filed under the Zina Offence provisions within three months. For example, it is estimated that there were 200,000 Hudood cases pending before the courts. According to the Federal Shariat Court, the Lahore Registry alone had about pending 1,400 cases. The effect is that the accused, most of them are women, are unjustly detained waiting trial.
GLOBAL: DOCUMENTING WOMEN'S RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY NON-STATE ACTORS
[ DOCUMENTING WOMEN'S RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY NON-STATE ACTORS.pdf
Second International Policy Conference on the African Child:
Violence Against Girls in Africa
[ Violence Against Girls in Africa.pdf
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