Today I spent the day down at the Bernalillo County Youth Detention Center and the New Mexico Youth Diagnostic and Detention Center. In that order. I'm not really a therapist, by the way. I'm a diagnostician. I interview the kids, and sometimes their families, diagnose the kids, write up a summary describing the kid and what I think is wrong and what we should do about it.
So anyway. The BCYD and the YDDC.
What the difference? I asked my coworker.
One is baby jail, the other is baby prison.
What's the difference between jail and prison?
How is it that you don't know that?
Really? How is it that I would know that? I've never been to jail. I've never personally, outside of an ex spouse or two, known anyone who had been to jail while I knew them, and I didn't study criminal justice. I know that people who get arrested sometimes have to go to jail, and then eventually they go to court, but outside of "Law and Order" I don't know much else.
I interviewed four kids. One of them definitely did not need to be there. Another one definitely did need to be there. The other two, well, I have to sit and let that marinade overnight, then I'll decide.
The place did not in any way look like a place for kids. There was no happy artwork on the walls. No motivational posters. No bulletin boards. No calendars. The staff all wore radios and were vigilant. The place was surrounded by 3 layers of razor wire. The ceilings were high. The funiture: bolted down.
Overwhelmingly, kids that I've interviewed that have been in those places are often sent there, at least at one point, for hitting or threatening one or both of their parents. This is usually after years of abuse, verbal or physical. It must be a real bitch to abuse the little person in your house with impunity and then, poof, one day s/he's big enough to kick YOUR ass. Oops. G'head. Call the cops. That'll fix everything.
So anyway, the kids. The end of the day I was kind of spent. I read their cases, their rap sheets. How do you get to the age of 16 and have a rap sheet that fills a page? When I was 16, I was trying to decide whether or not to "do it" with my boyfriend. I don't even think I'd had my first drink of alcohol.
One of these girls had had a miscarriage. Another one already had a kid, that had been taken by the state. All of them had used heavy drugs, meth, heroin, and huffing gas.
There's no point to what I'm saying here, by the way. I'm just processing my day.
Oh, and there's this:
We have these electronic babies at work. They are marvels of technology. They cry at somewhat regular intervals, and the chip buried deep in them records whether they are fed, changed, or held. It records if their heads are supported properly. It records if they are fed without being held (read: bottle-propping).
And, it records abuse. Six girls in the unit where I work got the babies. One of the girls is pregnant. In order to "pass" when the babies were downloaded into the clinical director's computer, they had to have a 85%. In other words, they had to meet their baby's needs 85% of the time.
One girl out of six passed. The pregnant girl. (Whew.) Another girl, well, about 4 hours after she got the baby, it stopped recording data. It wasn't broken. The last entry in the log was "abuse shutdown." In other words, she killed her baby. It started with her not supporting its head properly, and at one point she shook it. Hard.
Would she do that with a real baby? Do I even want to know that? No, I don't. I want to know that she has free access to Deprovera shots, or condoms, or whatever.
But I've got the sinking feeling that I'll always have a job.
I went for a run when I got home. I felt better. I had a good childhood, and I have a good life. Running reminds me of how lucky I am.
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