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HARD TIME: A special report:
Profits at a Juvenile Prison Come With a Chilling Cost

National Desk | July 15, 1998, Wednesday

ABSTRACT - Brutality, cronyism and neglect are rampant at Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth in Tallulah, La, privately run institution that many legal experts say is worst juvenile prison in nation; prison houses 620 boys and young men in stifling corrugated-iron barracks jammed with bunks; inmates regularly appear at infirmary with black eyes, broken noses or jaws or perforated earddrums from beatings by poorly paid, poorly trained guards or from fights with other boys; meals are meager, clothing scarce, almost all teachers are uncertified and instruction amounts to as little as one hour each day; up to a fourth of inmates are mentally ill or retarded, but a psychiatrist visits only one day each week and there is no therapy; emotionally disturbed boys unable to follow guards' orders are locked in isolation cells for weeks at time or have sentences arbitrarily extended; corrections officials say forces that have created conditions at Tallulah have caused deterioration of juvenile prisons nationwide; cite incarcerations of more and more mentally ill adolescents, rush by politicians to build new prisons while neglecting education and psychiatric services, and states' handing responsibility for juvenile offenders to private companies; Justice Department has begun series of investigations into state juvenile systems in Louisiana, Kentucky, Puerto Rico and Georgia; private juvenile prisons in Colorado, Texas and South Carolina have been successfully sued by individuals and groups or forced to give up licenses; photos (L) Here in the middle of the impoverished Mississippi Delta is a juvenile prison so rife with brutality, cronyism and neglect that many legal experts say it is the worst in the nation. The prison, the Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth, opened just four years ago where a sawmill and cotton fields once stood. Behind rows of razor wire, it houses 620 boys and young men, age 11 to 20, in stifling corrugated-iron barracks jammed with bunks.

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