Voices from Solitary: Haunted by Memory’s Ghosts
The following account comes from our faithful reader Alan CYA #65085. He recalls time spent, more than 40 years ago, in a juvenile jail in California–and a Christmas spent in solitary.
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“To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.” — Oscar Wilde, “De Profundis,” 1897
One of the biggest ironies in my life is that after years of incarceration, I opened my business a block away from two large jails and a halfway house. Since 1987, I have worked practically in the shadows of these institutions while attempting to ignore the human misery found inside. Like most people, I find that out of sight means out of mind–but unlike most people, I know firsthand the horrors that take place within such confines. My prior silence about these conditions would eat away at my soul whenever I allowed myself to ponder the purpose of these structures. Like ghosts wandering the hallways of a dwelling, the faces of the many victims of institutional violence that I have witnessed, read about, or just heard of over the years haunt the corridors of my mind.
Writing about my past has always been a difficult process for me to undertake. I liken it to ripping off a scab in order to take a closer look at the wound. But I am driven by ghosts, with my own brother’s tortured soul at the wheel.
You see, after spending over a decade in continuous isolation in about a half-dozen of California’s worse prisons, my nonviolent half-brother Victor died in Salinas Valley Prison’s SHU sometime in early 2007. The prison claims he hanged himself. “But why would he kill himself when he was about to be released?” we all asked. In fact, none of us believes that Victor killed himself. Everyone in the family believes that the guards were involved. (The Sacramento Beehas written extensively on the Green Wall of silence at Salinas, which is a reference to the color of the correctional workers’ uniforms and their coordinated cover up during investigations of alleged abuses taking place there.)
Although my own experience pales in comparison to my brother’s and countless others, I am still haunted by my own painful memories of the years I spent incarcerated in the California Youth Authority (CYA), and other such juvenile facilities. Possibly my worst memories are of the many stints I spent in solitary confinement, beginning when I was nine years old.
Recently, I found a series of photos that included shots of the Preston School of Industry in Ione, California, including its solitary confinement unit. It is a place I hadn’t seen since I was held there myself, 44 years ago, at the age of seventeen. The opportunity to take photographs of the bowels of Preston was only made available after Preston Youth Correctional Facility (it had under gone a name change in 1999) closed its doors on June 2, 2011, under pressure from the public due to claims of abuse.
Located in a pastoral setting on the western slope of the Sierras, Preston opened on July 1, 1894. It included two noteworthy landmarks. The first was an extremely high watchtower, and the second was Preston Castle, with its Romanesque Revival facade, both eerie and spectacular. Inmates were housed in this intimidating, decaying structure until 1960, when the new facilities were completed.
I was transferred to Preston on November 12, 1968, and I can still remember my escort taking me down the hill to my new residence. Sequoia Lodge was located a good distance away from all the other lodges in the far left hand corner of the institution from the main gate. This was because it housed the most violent prone wards in the California Youth Authority system. At Sequoia Lodge we were housed in individual cells, not dorms. Looking back on it, this was a blessing, because most of those housed with me were convicted murderers, rapist, or child molesters. I, however, was there for disturbing the peace, and my parole was suspended under section 602W&I of the penal code, which defined a “Delinquent Child” as “An individual of not more than 18 years of age who has violated criminal laws or engaged in disobedient, indecent or immoral conduct, and is in need of treatment, rehabilitation, or supervision.”
The institution’s grounds were dotted with clusters of nondescript one-story, concrete and cinderblock buildings, interconnected by narrow asphalt roads. These roads were used to march us in formation military-style to various locations. Numerous concrete walkways intersected these roads, leading to our lodges, schoolrooms, chow halls, work areas, recreational facilities, auditorium, clinic, and other administration buildings. The recreational facilities such as the football field, gym, and pool were only window dressing designed to appease visiting social activists, for we only rarely had access to any of them. School was devoid of lectures and the instructor was no more than the custodian of educational materials.
Tamarack Lodge, previously called Company G, was built in 1929 on the grounds of Preston School of Industry and was used as a solitary confinement unit when I arrived.
I have discovered that under the Penal Code of Preston School of Industry, youths could originally be held in solitary confinement for up to one year: “Every person who commits an assault upon the person of another with a deadly weapon or instrument, or by any means or force likely to produce great bodily injury, is punishable by imprisonment in Company G, or in Company F, not exceeding one year, or by fine not exceeding thirty-six dollars or by both.”
There were limits on the amount of time a cadet (they first used military terms for everything, then later on we became “wards of the state”) would spend originally in solitary. However, there were ways to get around these guidelines, as Edward Bunker wrote in his memoir Education of a Felon:
I was sent to Northern California, outside Stockton, to the Preston School of Industry. It was for boys sixteen and seventeen, with a few who were eighteen. I had barely turned fourteen. I was assigned permanently to G Company, a unit with a three-tier cell block. It was dark and gloomy and a carbon copy of a prison cell block…
[T]hey were not allowed to keep a youth under sixteen in a lockup cell for more than twenty-nine days at a time…So on the thirtieth morning, they took me out of G Company after breakfast. I checked into the regular company and went to lunch. After lunch they took me back to G Company.
I wrote about one of two stints I served in Tamarack Lodge in a piece published on Solitary Watch last year, titled “Christmas in the Hole.” That story took place only one month into my stay. And although nearly a half century has passed, I can still recall the solemn escorted walk over to this solitary confinement unit in mid-afternoon. It was cool but clear outside and the pathway, which followed just inside the perimeter fence, gave us an up-close and personal look at the rear of Preston Castle. This close, the decay of all but the red brick structure was obvious. The interior of the structure was especially ravaged by time, and thus the entire building took on an even more haunting appearance in my mind.
We entered the solitary confinement building through a heavy metal door. After being processed, I was escorted up a staircase to the top floor. The center of the rectangle building was open, allowing a view from the top floor to the first. The individual cells lined the perimeter of the building. Each cell door opened to the tier’s hallway, which was lined with an ornate wrought iron railing around the center opening.
The heavy bars covering the exterior of the windows and the heavy duty interior screens weren’t designed to allow easy access to clean the cells’ windows, so they were all yellow with years of built-up grime. Thus the light coming through was heavily filtered which made the cell quite dim and the view outside dreary and blurry. The screen smelt of mucus, like that a sneeze in a closed automobile.
My concrete bunk was the reverse layout of the cell in the photograph, with the bunk located on the left-hand side of the window, which was also on the far wall. The toilet and sink were on the right side near the door and designed to be clearly visible to the guards though the door’s barred 12” X 12” window, which was located just above the locked food slot. No expectation of privacy here. (A side note: Cell number 13 is described as a special “rubber room” used to “break” kids on the site of the Preston Castle Foundation.)
This was my entire world for the holidays. No books or any other distraction other than the wails of the other inmates and the ghostly shadow of Preston Castle.
I was released on July 7, 1969 with no usable skills or hope that I would never return but by the time I reached the administration building my step was light. Ill prepared for success I was given a ten dollar bill and a ticket to an unfamiliar part of the country to stay with my equally unfamiliar biological father. Filled with self doubts I thought“Well at least I am healthy and free!”
“After the primary necessity of food and raiment, freedom is the first and strongest want of human nature.” –John Stuart Mill, 1869
This article was written in the loving memory of my brother Victor. R.I.P.
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Oh wow I’m 30895 I was in Preston from 1980-87. I became more violent in that place. Had many nightmares after doing time there. I was in Evergreen, Hawthorn “aka horrible hawthorn”, Greenbrier aka the gas house and Juniper aka jumping J. And of course many months in Tamarack aka the rack. I learned how to fight better, making a shiv and using it. Most of the staff were currupt. That place was all bad!
I just found your comment today thank you for the responce I hope you’re sleeping better these days.
I was moved by the draconian changes that I’ve read about and seen in the photos over the last few years.
During the peak periods of the 1960’s and the late 1990’s, Preston held as many as 1000 wards. In the early 1960’s the majority of Preston’s population were white. However when I was held there in 68-69 the demographics were undergoing a rapid change and numerous race based gangs were being founded in response to the resulting racial tension throughout the California Penal System.
By the time of the 2005 CYA report that I read eighty-two percent of the wards had documented gang affiliations and forty-eight percent of ward population were Hispanic, twenty-nine percent black, fifteen percent white and eight percent classified as “other”.
Like in Pelican Bay in the adult prison system, the worst juvenile wards in California’s CYA System were consolidated at Preston. In fact much of Preston’s modifications mirrored that of those being carried out in California’s Department of Corrections over the years.
Read through the comments on here several others have made similar comments as your’s.
Good luck in the future.
Hey Anthony my name is rex
If you type in the following words without the spaces or quotation marks
“preston castle history.blogspot. com/2017/02/my-arrival-at-preston-guest. html”
you’ll see how California had transformed my old lodges cells into a carbon copy of a Supermax Pod.
It was a real eye opener for me (Alan CYA).
I was there in 71-72-73 the castle was closed about 10 years earlier It was called the new institution then. I had escaped from MT bullion CYA forestry camp got caught and was sent to Preston. when I was new there I was in a fight at least 2 or 3 times a week until I got some walking room. But fighting was a regular thing and it was all out fighting you would bite, gouge eyeballs, stab a guy in the ear with a pencil, or anything you could get your hands on to hit them with it was better to go down fighting than to be seen as a punk bitch that wouldn’t fight for your self. I was stabbed with an ice pick 7 times and had my throat cut once. I’m 63 now and I still cant sleep at night some times I wake up in a panic like some one is trying to get me and I’m all freaked out until I remember where I’m at. I have never forgot the things that happened there the things that you never share with anybody the things you never want to admit that you did. We were animals and we were used by the people who were suppose to help us. we were bet on like fighting dogs and pitted against each other some times. It was called the Saturday night fights. The food had weevils in it and at first I was grossed out buy all the little bugs in the baked food but after while I ate them down and I was laughing at the new guys who were grossed out. I went to lock up 2 or 3 times in Tamarac one xmass I got 45 days for fighting I put a real beating on that guy so they kept me longer than the usual 30 days. I have ben back there to see it twice since I got out and I still get a bad feeling in my guts and a lot of memories come rushing back. My high school diploma is from Preston school of industry that’s the only thing I got out of my stay there. I’m glad its closed now It made a kid worse for having ben there. There was a good reason they called it Gladiator school.
What lodge were you in? I (Alan CYA) was in Sequoia Lodge in 68-69. I received some photos today that revealed all the modifications they made to it since I left. Basically it was turned into a Supermax. Concrete bunks narrow slat windows and food/cuff up slots on cell doors remotely locked.
I’m sorry it affected you for so long. We’re. Close in age. I don’t have such strong emotions over it. I was lucky for sure.
I was first in Lynden lodge for receiving then to evergreen but got in a lot of trouble so they sent me over to juniper. And I was sent over to tamarack a few times to. I worked in the auto shop for my trade. I have some old pic’s of me in the visiting area with the castle in the background and a couple of me in front of my room and out in the rec yard. It sure looks deferent now. I was in a lot of cya intuitions Norwalk, DeWitt nelson, mt bullion camp, pine grove camp, Perkins, and a bunch of county time, I deserved the time I got I was a runaway train headed for I don’t know what. And sometimes I think Preston was what it took to make me look for a different way in life.
I did two stints in the CYA system the first was between 1964-65 (about 18 months) in Fricot Ranch School not too far from Preston in San Andreas County the second in Preston where I worked in the laundry. Not a career builder. LOL I feel I got little benefit out of either experience other than I know the truth about such places. I have worked nearly in the shadows of a large jail for the last thirty years and I’m reminded every day of what could been had I continued down the wrong path. After all that is why the architects always design them so dreary. All in all I did only about three years total beginning when I was nine. But ironically almost every birthday in the 60’s I found myself in a juvenile detention center. The lack of a good education meant I had to work hard in college and at work. It made Military training easy however and I served six years in the Air Force. Got my BS degree in Computer Science on the GI Bill and worked my ass off all my life to keep out of jail.
Yes Preston has changed.
I read the following after I received photos of my old lodge Sequoia which was transformed into something resembling a supermax pod.
“One lodge with individual sleeping rooms was configured for “close” security living but was not designated as being administrative segregation housing. ”
(My guess they are talking about the modifications to Sequoia Lodge only three other lodges are listed as having cells, of the four Sequoia had by far the largest staffing up to three times the number.)
Staff uses several factors to decide placement. Age, program needs and gang affiliation appear to drive the process of housing wards.
Another classification related measure is the category level of the ward.
Categories 1-2 are the highest security level and include wards committing murder and serious assaults.
(Many of the wards I knew in Sequoia Lodge fell into this category.)
…the ward population has dramatically changed at Preston….more than 82% of the wards claim gang affiliation…
(This is exactly the conclusion I came to viewing the assault statistics and knowing the gang history in the CDCR.)
The interview team conducted interviews with staff assigned to….the Specialized Behavioral Treatment Program (Sequoia)
FINDING: Specialized/Intensive Treatment programs treat the most difficult and troubled wards.”
The above info was taken from this 2005 CYA Report by the CDCR.
Nice chatting with you.
When I was there. There was a couple of units that had single rooms with a dayroom and if I remember right your old lodge Sequoia was a drug program lodge it was across the football field from me and I never got to go over there unless we went to the swimming pool. I had a couple friends do the program so they could get a time cut. All the lodges were named after trees I have a hard time remembering all the names of the lodges there Oak, Lynden was receiving, Evergreen, was the lodge for first time wards to YA fir, was a mix of guys who had been there before and older guys and juniper, was for trouble makers and the last stop was tamarack after that they would send you up to Tracy. And There’s probably one or two I have forgotten. Out of 1300 200 were white 200 or so Mexican and oriental and the rest were blacks. It was a pretty racial place and sometimes I wonder what ever happened to some of my friends I had there.
According to a 2005 report there were four units with cells. If you scroll up to the link and type it in it’ll send you to a blog which contains a summary of the report and a link to whole report. Anyone who spent time there would probably find it interesting. Yeah I witnessed the explosion in the black population who were mostly were fired up about getting even with Whitey. Sequoia held class 1 and 2 wards the highest security classification according to the report. Those with that classification committed murders or other such mayhem. Others were considered in need of intensive counseling. When I was there I never got any such thing. It seems that more than the architecture was modified by 2005. They turned it into a carbon copy of a Supermax pod. The site has photos which freaked me out. Please take the time to visit the site to see the photos and read the report.
A couple of the lodges were no longer in use that you mentioned. Tamarack for one so it looks like Sequoia was used to keep them in the cell all day.
Let me know what you think.
My only friend there (he killed a drug dealer) is in a nursing home after they cut off his foot due to complications from diabetes.
So I couldn’t share with him.
See the link I posted above to view photos of Sequoia they turned it into a carbon copy of a Supermax pod.
Hi im los or better know 88054. man i wish i could write my past down or even more forward like you… voices… since i was 7, im 31 and im losin my grip on whats real and whats not. preston made me more deadly but yet thoughtful… do i ,make any sense….
I never wrote much or even thought much about my experience in Preston until my brother died in Solitary. I began by trying to document events in my teens that are for me more vivid than last years I’m now 65
If you’ve been hearing voices and consider yourself deadly I would hope you’d seek mental Heath services where you could talk about these voices and memoirs you’re unsure of. Start with these questions.
What lodge were you assigned to?
What lead up to your arrest and placement in Preston?
What was happening in the country during that period of time?
How did you feel about your placement in Preston at the time?
How about today?
What were some of the most memorable things that happened to you in Preston?
Did you spend time in solitary?
If so why?
Were you a victim of aggression there? By who? Staff other wards?
Good luck maybe you could write the answers down here or send them to SW.
No one forwarded your comment to me I found it by chance.
Please try to either write about or speak to someone about what’s bothering you while you can
thank u for hearing my silent cry out for help. i was committed for car jacking and drugs. 7 years to do fresno county . i was at cedar,fir, hawthorne,evergreen, manzanita, tamarack, until they close it down in 2003. i then transferred to ironwood. i did 3 years in tamrock, because of it now im dealing with a deadly blood disease. that almost killed me and still receiving treatment. as far as the abuse, staff bettin on gang fight, paying of staff to set up a fight or sex. yea there was lot of that by staff and wards. i seen it all. I was turned into an animal. then set free. i have been strong but im weaken when i cant express my thoughts because no one really understands my FLashbacks they set me back emotionally. thank u alan cya
I feel your pain and hope you find a way to deal with it in a positive way.
If you want to see photos of what they did to Sequoia Lodge find the link I posted to a blog about Preston Castle above.
I would very much like to interview Alan if he is willing, for my blog on the history of the Preston School of Industry. I wrote a book on its history back in 2012, and have continued with my research by creating an ongoing blog.
Hi J’aime I am familar with your book and I believe you know Bill Thiry. If so Bill has my full story of the time I spent in Preston.
If you you’d like any other info have him send me your questions. Much of what I wrote is already on here and in comments. Do a search on this site for Alan CYA and you’ll see several other articles I wrote. Also on your moble phone you can go to the top right hand corner on Solitary Watch’s web site and click on the lines it will pull up my first piece “In Solitary at LA’s Juvenile Hall, Circa 1962” amonst others. Thank you for your interest.
Hello, I have been in contact with Bill in the past but haven’t spoken to him on a regular basis in the last year or so. I would much rather talk directly to you about your own experiences, if possible. If you change your mind and would be interested in talking to me one on one for an upcoming post on my blog –be it over the phone or email – at your own convenience… please feel free to contact me. — Thank you again for responding to my initial message. –J’aime Rubio
I’m wrestling with my past demons of the Rack today and crossed this. Seems like six years of a life I didn’t live until some unforgiving memory wakes it up.
Here are some excellent B&W photos of Preston’s hole, the Tamarack Lodge.
I read this story today about the murder of the authors half-brother.
A flaunted collection of flawed characters and the authors attempt to memorialize his brother while dealing with his own guilt.
“I don’t mean I’m conflicted about his dying—of course I wish he were still alive. But for many years I felt a toxic wad of gut-based guilt because I didn’t feel enough. I thought I should be sadder. I thought I should be undone. I thought, like a Beckett character, I should not be able to go on. And to not go on.”
But we do.
John Haviland the most famous and internationally influential prison architect of all time designed the notorious Eastern State Penitentiary. At the time ESP opened it was the largest and most expensive public structure in the country.
But Haviland also designed at least one asylum, Harrisburg State Hospital (HSH) known at the time as the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital. Fellow Quaker Dr. Thomas S. Kirkbride, M. D. was one of the trustee’s appointed by the governor for the HSH project which opened in 1851.
Here is a bit of history showing a link between ESP, and Preston Castle.
Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride’s grand asylum architectural designs were linfluenced by Eastern State Penitentiary’s (ESP) which opened in 1829 during Kirkbride’s second year at the University Of Pennsylvania’s Medical School.
One of the last Kirkbride structures built in the United States was the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center in Minnesota which opened its doors on July 29, 1890.
Fergus Falls was designed by Minneapolis architect Warren B. Dunnell who went on to design:
The Minnesota State Reform School at Red Wing which formally opened in 1891.
The main building at Red Wing continues to be regarded as a prime example of the neo-Romanesque style that was pioneered by Henry Hobson Richardson in the late 19th century.
In 1895 MSRS was renamed the Minnesota State Training School for Boys and Girls.
John Handy is the program director at Red Wing these days. At the front desk there is a sign that reads:
“Never Grow a Wishbone Where Your Backbone Ought to Be.”
My interpretation: “You best grow a pair because you’re on your own.”
Preston School of Industry’s original building first opened for business on July1, 1894.
Robert T. Devlin, the President of the California State Board of Prison Directors, had visited 22 institutions in the East. Devlin was particularly impressed with the architectural plans for the Minnesota State Training School being built in Red Wing, MN designed by architect Warren B. Dunnell. So Devlin returned with tracings of MSTS’s architectural plans, and submitted them to Preston’s architect, Henry A. Schulze, for the administration building and annex.
Both Eastern State Penitentiary and Preston Castle have since become tourist locations. The Preston Castle Foundation has held frequent paid photographic tours of this California historical landmark to generate funding to restore it to its original grandeur.
For more on the influence of these architects click on this link.
If that alleyway were ten feet narrower, you wouldn’t believe how a person could get a wedged in there perpendicular with maybe, maybe six inches free on either side. With no scuff marks on the building or brick marks on either bumper of the car the only logical explanation would be the car was parked there and the buildings constructed around it.
does anyone remember the farm in Preston in the early ’70s?
Yes, I remember the farm that was “F” company, I was in ” J ” Company Laundry and there was an ” A ” Company which that was the people who work in the Mess Hall, kitchen.
Benjamin Sarasua CYA 67656
Hey Benjamin….read this cats stories….he arrived at Preston Nov of 68…..were he says he will never forget going down to sequoia lodge…he says he was 17…then he says when he got there he was assigned to g co permanently is tamarack….then he says when he arrived there he went straight to tamarack….and he had barely turned 14….read it this guys a good writer ill give em that…but what????…he thought his covers wouldn’t get pulled one day….what a joke….
I think you need to reread what Alan wrote. It was stated as an example that Edward Bunker wrote in his memoir ” Education of a Felon” about g unit. It wasn’t referred to by Alan as g unit just the hole or Solitary.
You’ve confused the two stories.
I’d like to hear about your experience there. Me and my brother arrived after the castle was closed. Mike was in Preston in 66-67 and I was there 68-69.
When Looking ‘Insane’ Got You Committed
The archaic medical practice of recognizing mental illness and “idiocy” based on appearance.
Ha profiling in the 1800’s just not for criminals.
A House of Refuge, With Stories to Tell
“On a street of intensely varied architecture, the busy red brick structure at 307 East 12th Street still attracts confused curiosity. Tenement? Club? Institution? It is hard to tell.
The building, one of Manhattan’s newest landmarks, has elements of all three. Built in 1892 as the Elizabeth Home for Girls, it housed several dozen young women…
The girls listed in the 1900 census were mostly 14 to 21 years old and native to New York. These included Lillian Hadden, 16; Christiana Christian, 18; and Barbara Huff, 20. The course of their lives can be inferred from later census records. The 1910 census listed Christiana Christian as a convict at a reformatory in Newark. The 1930 census listed Lillian Hadden, 45, as married but with no husband present, living with her widowed mother, and Barbara Huff, 51, as a servant with a family. Both women were living in the Bronx.
The story of yet another resident, Emily Reese, is the subject of a book by Clark Kidder, her grandson. “Emily’s Story — the Brave Journey of an Orphan Train Rider” reveals that Emily was born in Brooklyn in 1892, given up by her parents for reasons unknown and living at the Elizabeth Home in 1905. The next year she was one of thousands to go west on “orphan trains,” for adoption by farm families.
For six years she bounced around a half-dozen households in Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin. In 1912, while working for a farm family in Milton, Wis., she married a farmer, ultimately rearing six children and dying at 93, in 1986.”
Emily’s story hits home because it is also my grandfather’s story.
My grandfather John also ended up in Iowa as an orphan.
Life is like a relay race your chance of success is based upon the position your forefathers leave you in.
I realize I’ve been out a long time but I can’t recall any such preference. The last comment or rather post I made is a composite of several articles written by others and focusing on how the system deals with the petty crimes of juveniles. This is where it all starts and we all know where it ends. A poor kid is homeless and then punished it for it.
My first two falls was for run away. Hell I recently read in my baby book that I had packed a suitcase when I was 18 months old and was picked up by our milkman on the other side of town. Thankfully he wasn’t a child molester.
It takes time to bred a heartless criminal.
If you notice you are not the only one using the word “inmate” and sorry I picked your thread to voice my concerns over the term. You can actually read what T has said often about “inmate vs. prisoner” in The Hot House.But he is not the only prisoner to feel that way.Take care
According to the online dictionary the two are interchangeable.
a person who is confined in a prison….
Related Words for : inmate, con, convict, jailbird
1) a person who is confined in prison or kept in custody, especially as the result of legal process.
2.a person ‘or thing’ that is deprived of liberty or kept in restraint.
The ‘or thing’ above would expand on the possibilities to include animals where as with inmate it is specific to a person.
I’m not going to debate you but prisoners want to be referred to as prisoners not inmates stick with the old dictionary.If you want to support T thats what he prefers ask him what an inmate is.
I saw in a comment a pet peeve anyone supporting prisons please us the term prisoner not inmate.. inmate is a pc word, the people are prisoners
That’s because he was an inmate..this guy might of been at Preston….but his stories don’t ring true
During the nineteenth century, urban centers such as New York City received a steady stream of foreign immigrants, unskilled native-born workers, and free blacks who, by economic necessity, settled in the poorest, most densely populated wards of the city. The vast majority of children worked to supplement their families’ meager incomes. The growth of street trades also led to an increase in the amount of petty crime committed by juveniles.
Police cited vagrancy, however, as the principal “crime” committed by the young, though most had homes and jobs that required their presence in the streets. The emphasis on children’s “vagrancy” reflects middle-class biases about what constituted a home. In the eyes of many middle-class observers, the poor had no homes, merely dark, filthy hovels. In fact, the term street arab, first used in the mid-nineteenth century, alludes to the nomadic lifestyle of some Arabic peoples. More than any other issue, the presence of children in the streets symbolized the disorder of lower-class family life to social reformers. Instead of keeping children within the domestic sphere to protect them from the perceived evils of urban life, lower-class parents allowed their offspring to work and play in the city streets.
Fueled by these beliefs, organizations for the moral reform of destitute and delinquent youth emerged on both sides of the Atlantic: Rauhe Haus in Germany, Colonie Agricole in France, Kingswood and Tower Hill in England.
The New York House of Refuge was the first youth detention center in the United States. The building was located in Manhattan, New York City, at Randall’s Island.
The reformatory opened January 1, 1825, with six boys and three girls. Within a decade 1,678 inmates were admitted.
Two features distinguished the New York institution from its British antecedents.
First, children were committed for vagrancy in addition to petty crimes.
Second, children were sentenced or committed indefinitely; the House of Refuge exercised authority over inmates throughout their minority years.
During the nineteenth century most inmates were committed for vagrancy or petty theft.
A large part of an inmate’s daily schedule was devoted to supervised labor, which was regarded as beneficial to education and discipline. Inmate labor also supported operating expenses for the reformatory. Typically, male inmates produced brushes, cane chairs, brass nails, and shoes. The female inmates made uniforms, worked in the laundry, and performed other domestic work. A badge system was used to segregate inmates according to their behavior. Students were instructed in basic literacy skills. There was also great emphasis on evangelical religious instruction, although non-Protestant clergy were excluded. The reformatory had the authority to bind out inmates through indenture agreements by which employers agreed to supervise them during their employment. Although initially several inmates were sent to sea, most male and female inmates were sent to work as farm and domestic laborers, respectively.
Late nineteenth-century reformers viewed children as a key for reforming and redeeming the republic. These “child savers” responding to growing urban poverty sought to provide shelter and education for orphaned, neglected, abused, abandoned, and delinquent children. They believed that separating children from adults in almshouses, placing them in institutions in rural areas, structuring their activities, and educating them would turn them into good citizens.
The innocent poor–orphaned, abandoned, and neglected children–were educated in orphanages. For children who had already experienced a life of vice in the city, the reformers established industrial homes, houses of refuge, and reformatories with an emphasis on work and vocational education.
These reformatories sought to remold children’s characters through discipline and hard work.
Homeless and runaway children have been the victims of changing societal attitudes toward vagrancy over the years.
Definitions of poor homeless children in the past have come with the distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor. The deserving poor were considered worthy of public assistance because the causes of their poverty were beyond their individual control. The undeserving poor, however, were poor due to their flawed characters and personal faults, and were thus unworthy of aid. It was believed that if the undeserving poor were given assistance, their numbers would simply increase.
A large percentage of Americans in the early twentieth century recognized that poor homeless people were victims not only of individual circumstances, but often and perhaps more importantly of institutional and structural arrangements. For example, many rural communities were accessible by automobile only during certain seasons of the year; therefore, social service agencies literally could not expand their services into remote areas in a consistent manner. However, any allowances made for causes external to the individual only went so far and were applied only to the socially defined deserving poor.
The distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor was applied to homeless and runaway children as well. Children who had lost their homes due to societal conditions fell into the category of deserving poor; runaway children who chose to leave their homes, for whatever reason, fell into the category of undeserving poor. Only deserving homeless children were viewed as unfortunate and in need of human services and caring intervention. Runaway children were viewed as vagrants and criminals deserving punitive forms of intervention from people trying to rid themselves and their environment of spoiled goods. This attitude resulted in homeless children and runaways being abused and used as cheap labor by agriculturalists and industrialists.
Research indicates that people continued to discriminate against homeless children and runaways throughout the twentieth century. Johann Le Roux and Cheryl S. Smith examined attitudes toward urban homeless children and runaways and found that street children in the 1990s lived under a constant threat of violence and maltreatment. Some people regarded them as nuisances, and some regarded them as criminals.
Rural homeless and runaway children of the past had much in common with their counterparts of today as well. In 2000, Peggy Shifflett reported the results of a study of contemporary adults who grew up between 1930 and 1960 as homeless children in a rural Virginia community. Homeless and runaway children in this community were called fieldrabbits because they roamed the roads with no attachment to their parents, and particularly their fathers. The adults reported that when they were homeless as children they were often beaten and forced to work, at minimal or no wages, for community families. Other families provided for their needs, and they knew from experience which families would feed them and give them a bed for a night. From this community, six adolescents were institutionalized and sterilized.
The first state to pass sterilization laws was Indiana, in 1907. By 1944, thirty states had passed sterilization laws and forty thousand men, women, and children had been sterilized. Between 1945 and 1963, another twenty-two thousand people were sterilized. California sterilized the largest number at twenty thousand, followed by Virginia, with eight thousand. Virginia’s sterilization program did not officially end until 1979.
Homeless and runaway children and adolescents were the most likely to be sterilized.
The Current Status of Homeless and Runaway Children
In 1989, the American Medical Association (AMA) called for research on the health-care needs of homeless and runaway children. They reported that they had no way of knowing the extent to which the populations of homeless children and runaway children overlapped, and noted that any attempt to distinguish between homeless and runaway children would be artificial since the health needs of both groups are likely the same. For the first time in the literature on homeless and runaway children the AMA had moved away from labeling poor children deserving and undeserving. However, the AMA’s focus was still on urban children–the homeless and runaway children who roam the streets of every major city in this country.
Janet Fitchen reported in her 1991 article that homelessness in rural America is still generally overlooked and ignored because it does not fit urban-based perceptions and definitions. Most Americans think of the homeless as living in boxes in alleys and sleeping on subway benches or in homeless shelters. Rural homeless people do not fit these images. In fact, few rural people are literally homeless in the sense of not having a roof over their heads. However, the roof they have may be only a car roof or a shed roof; it may be the leaky roof of a dilapidated farmhouse or an isolated shack with no running water, or the temporary roof of an old mobile home already full of relatives or friends.
Nord and Luloff reported in 1995 that there was a strong stigma associated with homelessness in rural areas. As a result, homeless children suffer from loneliness and depression. They are more likely to be diagnosed as retarded in school and relegated to SPECIAL EDUCATION classes for the learning disabled. Homeless children do attend school, but are inclined to drop out at age sixteen. Attention deficit disorder is the most frequent diagnosis, with emotionally disturbed bringing up a close second. Teachers often report homeless children as inattentive and sleepy in class. Most of these diagnoses result from inadequate sleep and poor nutrition.
The American Medical Association in 1989 summarized the health issues of homeless and runaway children as being the same as those faced by homeless people in general. The one exception is that older children tend to be healthier by virtue of their age and the shorter length of time they have been homeless. The health problems faced by homeless and runaway children can be grouped into six categories: nutrition, substance abuse, mental health, physical health, sexual health, and victimization.
Nutritional deficiencies are common. This situation has frightening implications for the health and well-being of children born to homeless adolescent females, among whom pregnancy is fairly common. Large numbers of homeless and runaway children drink regularly and up to one-half have diagnosable alcohol problems. The abuse of other DRUGS is also common. Homeless children are also afflicted with mental health problems, the most common of which are depression and self-destructive behavior, including SUICIDE.
The physical health of homeless and runaway children is challenged by exposure to the elements, lack of sleeping quarters, and the absence of a clean home. The most common problems reported are upper respiratory tract infections, minor skin ailments, and gastrointestinal tract problems. Sexual health problems include genitourinary disorders, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Because homeless and runaway children are too young to work and lack marketable skills, they are often recruited by criminals involved in the illegal drug trade, prostitution, and pornography. They are either active participants in these activities or serve as recruiters of other vulnerable children.
Experts generally agree that homelessness among children is increasing in both rural and urban areas. The causes are social in nature. These children are often homeless along with their mothers and are victims of economic recessions, job loss, and high housing costs. Data on the extent of the problem is inadequate and can be found only in isolated case studies. Virtually nothing is known about the needs of racial and ethnic subgroups within the young homeless population or about what happens to these young people as they age.
After rereading my comments above I realized that some people might not be comfortable with my reference of to whom I could socialize with in Preston. On the all important issue of race you need to realize that unlike the free world racial and ethnic distinctions are nowhere more conspicuous than in prison: all social interaction is refracted through the prism of these group differences. You hang with your own.
Also my reference to the prey may sound heartless but if you think about how dangerous rescuing a drowning person can be then apply this analogy to those most preyed upon in prison it makes perfect sense. For instance after two wards attempted or committed suicide (I never learned their fate) I tried to help similar wards but my actions only brought me death threats.
In fact if there was another person besides my best friend that I’d like to see it would be Fritz a scrawny homosexual, whose ethnicity I could never quite discern. Fritz literally had my back on several critical occasions while I was in Preston. First, while Fritz showered in front of me, he warned me of the inappropriate gazes of a sexual deviate just behind the partition of the drying area of the shower room. The bottom half of this partition was solid but the top half was glass, so the deviate was standing just behind my location looking down at an acute angle at my backside. This affront, as well as a few others that he committed, forced my hand. But instead of a full scale assault I ended up bitch slapping the mentally disturbed ward to make a statement. It was for this incident that I was sent to solitary over the holidays. On another occasion Fritz boldly defended me in a group meeting knowing that doing so would invite violence upon him. Shortly after this meeting Fritz’s nonthreatening appearance allowed him to get close enough to overhear the conspirators plotting a mass attack, and I was their main target. These hostiles had amassed a large arsenal of bars, and shanks. Thanks to Fritz the attack was averted when I immediately dealt with the ringleader, mano a mano. After our altercation a search was conducted of all our cells and the arsenal was found in the ringleader’s cell. The ringleader, a convicted cop killer, was sent up stream to Tracy and I did a fortnight in solitary.
Thank you Fritz!!
I hope this explanation helps moderate my words.
You call a stint ..fortnight……i think you were a PC at Preston …..face who you are ..stop lying
Ok I accept the challenge pull my covers. I’ve read where you misread the article mixing up Edward Bunkers quote from his memoir Education of a Felon with my experience. I never knew the hole or Solitary by g company that was a term used while the Castle was in operation. Maybe you skimmed though the story or missed the quotes or some other technical reason or maybe I’m not such a good writer but I welcome your challenge of proving me a fraud. What is my motive? You meantioned J’amie’s book which I would not be apart of since I was in Preston after the Castle was closed. The hole was the only unit that both served the Castle and the newer section. If you know her she has a longer read of the time I spent there including photos of me taken outside of Sequioa lodge with the Castle in the background.
Any other question s ask away. I’m waiting you’ll find I’m no punk even at 65.
A stint is an undetermined amount of time a fortnight is two weeks. You can think what you want I can’t control that but other than not reading what’s clearly written well you have not based your belief on anything other than you don’t believe the story. I think you should be more clear as to why. It’s nearly 50 years ago but I recall much of it better than last year. So question it it’s not important I wrote for the benifit of those still held in solitary I’ve received no money and certainly no fame since I don’t even state my name. The authorities can look me up using my CYA number maybe even fact check the story so what’s your case sir?
You’ll find many cases where inmates are seeking mental health care in the BOPs.
Read about a few here:
Finally, Justice at Supermax? If Anyone Can Make the Right Call, It’s This Judge
“How does the BOP explain the presence of mentally ill prisoners at Supermax at all, given the terms of its own policy, which states that men “currently diagnosed as suffering from serious psychiatric illnesses should not be referred for placement at… ADX”?
There are several prisons within the federal system specifically designed to treat mentally ill prisoners. ADX-Florence… is not one of them.
It is not even plausible that Warden Berkebile and Director Samuels are aware that ADX is filled with mentally ill prisoners in need of treatment and medication that is denied to them as a result of, inter alia,
(1) a BOP rule prohibiting the administration of psychotropic drugs to prisoners assigned to the Control Unit;
(2) BOP decisions allocating only two psychologists at ADX for approximately 450 prisoners;
(3) the general practices of withholding psychotropic medication and mental health treatment for deeply disturbed prisoners throughout the institution; and
(4) countless lawsuits filed by individual prisoners seeking relief from these nightmarish practices.
As you can see in the Colorado case, and as most every other prisoner rights case suggests, virtually the entire apparatus of law and government is set against these prisoners. Congress has written tough laws which make it terribly hard for inmates to hold their jailers accountable, even where the inmates have viable claims to litigate. The courts, meanwhile, including the United States Supreme Court, have interpreted those protective laws broadly, to further insulate prison officials not just from liability but from any meaningful accountability.”
Where is the line between mental illness and criminal drawn?
Predicting violence is a work in progress
After every act of incomprehensible violence, the world asks whether the killer could have been identified ahead of time. It’s as automatic as the call for more gun control and better mental health services.
Some people warn that a more aggressive mental health system would pose its own dangers.
James B. Gottstein, a lawyer in Anchorage and head of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, has won four cases in his state’s Supreme Court supporting patients’ rights to refuse to take psychiatric medicines, limiting conditions for involuntary commitment and other issues. He learned firsthand what it’s like to be forcibly drugged and stigmatized by psychiatric treatment.
In June 1982, he had a manic episode that he attributes to sleep deprivation. He was working hard, suffering from jet lag after returning from Europe and living in a place where the sun didn’t set at night. He was taken by the police to a mental hospital, where he spent a month.
“One of the problems that happens when you become a psychiatric patient is that everything that you do or say can be labeled as a psychiatric symptom,” said Gottstein, 59, a graduate of Harvard Law School.
“If the police knock down your door and haul you off and you get upset, you get labeled as ‘hostile’ and ‘labile.’ If you decide that you’re not going to react to these provocations, you get labeled as having ‘a flat affect.’ If you think something is funny and you laugh to yourself, then they write down ‘responding to internal stimuli,’ ” he said.
It’s not that people don’t want help, Gottstein said, but that “the system basically forces things on them that they don’t want.” He thinks it is “entirely possible to create a system where things are voluntary.”
I can’t imagine losing a twin that must be like losing both a brother and a limb.
I googled Newgate, not a happy place.
By the way, how you socialize in these institutions is not really a personal choice, it is forced upon you. It was not healthy to buck the system.
Happy New Year to everyone.
No I have not reconnected with anyone. To tell you the truth because of the nature of the “Lodge” that I was assigned to I don’t think I’d be comfortable having a get together. Remember for whatever reason I was assigned to the “worst of the worst” Lodge which was isolated far from the rest of the wards at Preston. And Preston was the last stop before the adult system. I never interacted with anyone outside the 40 odd (there’s a double meaning here) wards in this Lodge. If you, as I had too, scratch off the prey (gays and the weak), child molesters, rapists, and the people of the opposition (anyone outside your race) I was left with only one friend and he was a convicted murderer.However I have found his family who advised me he has become a hermit and lives alone in a trailer in the hills. They don’t think it would be wise to contact him but with no phone, or electricity unless I went hiking forget it. He is totally off the grid. Obviously if he has retreated from his family I doubt if he is looking to have a chat with me. LOL Every other link to my past has died early or become ultra Jesus freaks. Therefore I have no one to talk about these matters in my life. And of course my family wants to think of me as I am today and not then.
Yes the link to jolly old England is deep.
These old institutional buildings do indeed seem to be attempting to tell a story about our past if only we would research them.
American Horror Story/Asylum comes to mind. LOL
There’s not much difference between prisons and asylums the abuse is similar.
Very interesting Alan………….I always take interest in your writing, and liked the addition of the photo of you and brother Victor, plus the slide show at Preston, it gives me a real feel for what was, and the pain of losing a brother. I lost a twin brother, and work my way through the grief to this day, because like your brother, he died alone, that too is always in the “corridors of my mind.” I couldn’t help but think how many of our institutions resemble those of England, like Newgate. You always see those big brick gates leading into the grounds. You kind of get that freaky feeling when you walk through the gates, and beyond. I am wondering have you ever connected with others who also were at Preston and NM? After 40 years, that would be something.
I was glad that they eliminated the term lunatic from the books, and from the medical professions. Here’s wishing all of you happy new year, 2013.
@8forever Thank you and I would like that T received it along with the comment above which I think he’d like also. Why it was not part of my post is a puzzle to me. They don’t do history is what I’m told but then how do we understand how we got here?
CYA congrats on the article, And nice to “see” you Mr.Steinblum
I may send this to T. Happy New Year and Cheers to you both.
If either of you would like to see what T and I are up to click our link.
Please send you positive energy and support to T who is still waiting for his day in court
And to SolWa thank you for continuing to post articles that are pertinent and in reality the only place to read whats going on in this disgusting practise of indefinate isolation.
Here is a slide show of Preston.
But don’t be fooled by these photos depicting wards listening to classroom lectures it is what the authorities want you to believe. No such lectures ever took place the only lecture I ever received in any of the juvenile facilities I’ve been held in was to be quiet.
As an active member of JAC Jail Action Coalition I have sought to end solitary confinement , especially for the mentally ill at Rikers Island. We have met with the commissioner of the Department of Corrections , attended Board of Correctiuons Meetings , demontrated our concerns for a failed system ofcriminal justice found in New york City. After five years from release 66 percent return to prison. This is a failed system. One thing i have learnt is that the system also fails the correction officers. The life expectancy of an officer is 59 years compared to the general population of 77 years.Correction officers commit suicide at a higher rate tthan NYPD street officers. Problems at home lead to devorce and excessive drinking is a problem. The stress comes in part from administration that does not appreciate that forced overtime, irregular shifts adds to the stress of their jobs. As a result I am preparrted as an individual to meet with COBA members ( Correction Officers Benevolent Association ) to work with them uin reducing excessive use of force and to give support to officers who do not turn a blind eye to violance against inmates because of the existance of a blue wall of silance. firstname.lastname@example.org