Privatized Kid’s Jail: Phillip
I once worked as a counselor in a privatized kid’s jail. Yes, we are such an incarceration nation we have jails-lot of jails-for kids. I remember my pre-employment tour of one of the company’s jails.
The trainer opened a door and there sat about ten smallish kids in orange jumpsuits. Surprised, they turned and looked at us, of course. The youngest was eight years-old.
This bothered me. I had worked as a teacher in a grown-up jail and lots of things bothered me there, as well; like that horrible clanging sound when the doors shut and you are on the wrong side. But eight years-old? They make orange jump suits in children’s size eight?
Oh, where to start! The kids ranged up to age eighteen, and many of them dwarfed my petite little self. I had to learn various physical moves to restrain them if they became violent. I decided ahead of time to talk my way out of any such situation-or alternatively, to run like hell.
I had about 20 kids on my caseload. God, I loved them. Funny thing about kids, maybe especially these kids; they have a BS detector a mile wide and they know when you love them. If they have any lingering doubts, they test your love by being a pain in the arse. I passed their tests.
Dear friend, I know you are busy, you have things to do today, so I’ll just tell you about one. His name was Phillip and he was small for fourteen and very polite.
“How’s it going, Phillip?”
“You know the rules? You know you go home based on how you score on rule-following?”
“Want a mint?”
“YEAH! Thank you.”
“So, how did you end up here?”
“You robbed someone?”
“No. Me and my friend were thinking about going to snoop around this empty house. We were looking in the window.”
“Looking in the window?”
“Yup. Then we saw the house wasn’t empty so we started home.”
“Where was the burglary?”
“Well, the judge said we were thinking about robbing the house.”
He was thinking about robbing the house? He never went in? He never took anything? These asinine charges were not that unusual. I hoped he couldn’t tell how asinine I thought they were.
“How long are you here for?”
“Six months. If I don’t break any rules, right?”
Six months in this hell hole because some cop read your mind and it read “I think I’ll rob this house?” Of course, I didn’t say that. I said,
“You seem like a good kid, Phillip. Come see if you if you run into problems, O.K.?”
Phillip’s parents, both of whom loved him dearly, were getting divorced. Phillip was upset about this. He was trying to figure out which was to blame; he was just a kid. He had never gotten in any trouble before. He was here because, as a privatized kid jail, they made money by keeping the beds full, kind of like a motel.
Please don’t tell me that social services should be run by businesses because they are more efficient. They may be more efficient at making a profit, but they are not more efficient at providing an effective service.
If you advocate privatization of social services and I lose all my nice, friendly ways and eat matches and s**t fire on you, it’s because I am thinking of Phillip, who never should have been there, and I’m thinking of a little eight-year old boy in a little orange suit.
*What can one person do? Oppose privatization of social services.
*If there is a kid jail in your community, see what they need for donations. Mine needed school supplies, envelopes so kids could write home, books…