“Will the abuse of power and false control ever end?” asks Dr. Susan Feneck, the ambassador for change behind the walls of America’s juvenile justice system. If you’ve had the opportunity to read Dr. Feneck’s in-depth articles in previous MYVEGAS issues, she has been advocating for this purpose for over 20 years, speaking openly and graphically about the inhumanity going on behind our country’s rich, razor wired walls. Dr. Feneck’s peers have nominated her once again for 2020 Top 100 Doctors, after being nominated in 2019 for Top 100 Women of Influence and Top 100 Doctors. Her overwhelming back-to-back nominations are what we conclude to be the unbelievable cause she has so strongly supported over the years.
Injustice issues date back decades, with countless cases of juveniles being wrongly or intentionally convicted, brutally restrained, countless unnecessary deaths, soaring suicide rates, heavy overmedication (chemical restraints), solitary confinement and illegal power of abuse for minor infractions…the list goes on. The timeline below represents just a small margin of the cases that were brought to the surface, and for some, to justice. The bigger question is, what are we doing about it?
1983: Baltimore Middle School Killing: Three 16-years old’s; Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins, and Andrew Stewart, were wrongly convicted and given life in prison for the fatal shooting of DeWitt Duckett at Baltimore Middle School. Last year, the three men were released and exonerated from all charges, 36 years later, with the help of the Baltimore community.
1989: Central Park Five: 5 teenagers aged 14-16: K. Richardson, R. Santana, A. McCray, Y. Salaam, and K. Wise, were taken in and charged for rape and assault, with reports of “intimidating behavior.” Being coerced by interrogators to confess to a crime they didn’t commit, they were sentenced to 6-13 years in prison and became known as The Central Park Five. 12 years later, a suspect came forward to confess to the crimes, and the Central Park Five were released.
2002: Brian Banks: A 16-year-old with a promising football dream was falsely accused of rape by a member at their high school. His attorney strongly encouraged him to plead no contest; but he served 5 years in prison and 5 years of parole for a crime he did not commit. (Las Vegas Locomotives, Atlanta Falcons).
2008: Cash for Kids Scandal: Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella wrongfully convicted and imprisoned over 3,000 children and were accused of accepting money in return for imposing harsh adjudications on juveniles to increase occupancy at for-profit detention centers.
2016: Discovery Academy, Provo, Utah: The shocking stories from Discovery Academy include allegations from students of sexual abuse, rape, assault from “mentors” and “counselors” that have gone “unsubstantiated” for years. They were sued in 2007 for refusing to release patient records to an investigation into abusive practices.
2018: A Florida detention center officer was charged after a 17-year old’s death. Caused by the assault of other inmates using the not unusual bounty and reward system, which ‘allows’ other inmates to assault inmates. The officer was charged with a maximum life sentence.
With little research, it’s not difficult to discover horrific images and videos of youth in the system being brutally restrained in facilities. The even scarier truth, these actions happen daily. An unfathomable percentage of deaths/injuries in private juvenile facilities are caused by unlawful restraints. Keeping in mind that institution owners and executive’s profits are based on the number of inmates their facility has, the entire system is a criminal money-making machine. Not to mention, children are tried as adults constantly, bleeding these issues into the adult system.
According to current U.S. research, 10,000 juveniles are wrongly accused and convicted each year, and a terrifying number are juveniles of color. Detention facilities treat juveniles with force, brutality and inhumanity; losing their rights all too often. While not minimizing the consequences for children committing serious crimes, the officers, owners, and leaders of institutions need to be held accountable! I strongly stand behind Dr. Feneck’s mission of bringing these stories to light. She will be hosting, along with Angelo J. Giordano of Giordano Production Space (proud sponsor), Art of The Culinary, and BarSmart.Systems, her second annual Juvenile Justice Impact Gala in November. She has gathered like-minded celebrities to even further extend the voice for change. Her gala last year was a huge success due to our incredible community coming together to support her cause.
Shedding a positive light on the JJS here in Las Vegas, Dr. Feneck recognizes Jack Martin, Director, Clark County Department of Juvenile Justice Services and Honorable William O. Voy, Eighth Judicial District Court, Family Division for their continued successful work for youth in our community. ALL of US as a NATION are DEMANDING COMPLETE REFORM OF THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM.