In a special unit at a youth detention center in California, around 40 boys are housed in one-man cells. Security is at a maximum, with bullet-proof glass, heavy gates and sensor fences with barbed wire. A few of the boys await trial, others have already been given long sentences.
4 am. Transportation
Marcus, 16, is going to court. He wears a special transportation jumpsuit and his hands and feet are shackled. Soon he will be placed in a small cage inside the bus that will take him to the court-house.
6.15 am. Wake up
Peter, 16, rushes to the bathroom.
“Our cells are always locked. If we need to go to the bathroom we have to get the staff’s attention. It makes you feel like a dog. Sometimes I just don’t want to ask for help, so I pee on my towel.”
7.20 am. Grooming
The bathroom has clear glass windows and low walls between the toilets. The prisoners get three minutes each in the shower.
“Once a week they give us a package with clean clothes and a towel. The worst thing is not having your own underwear,” says Tomas, 16. He puts his trousers under his mattress to keep them creased.
08.00 Perfect order
Eric, 17, makes his bed.
“It has to be perfect or we have to do it over.”
8 pm. Calling home
The boys cannot receive calls. They have to use a payphone and call collect. This can be expensive for their families. A lot of kids want to use the phone, so everyone’s time to talk is limited. There is no access to computers or email. Letters to and from family and friends are opened and checked by the staff.