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With over 20 years of research into our broken prison systems, author Nell Bernstein's new book Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison, reveals the sordid reality: children are locked up for minor offenses, and exposed to pathologies that leave them most likely to become adult prisoners.
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Bernstein has studied juvenile prisons around the country, and her book combines painful anecdotes with hard data to make the case for shutting down our broken juvenile detention system. While California abolished its Youth Authority and sharply reduced the population in state institutions, Bernstein fears that when funds are available, more youth will be locked up unless policies are changed.
We discuss the gang mentality imbued on young prisoners, the widespread use of solitary confinement and group punishment, and the fact that most sexual violations of juvenile prisoners are perpetrated by staff members, who are rarely punished.