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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 74167 Find in a Library
Title: Abuse of Children in Institutions - Statement of Mary Lynn Walker Before the House Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee on Select Education on December 4, 1980
Author(s): M L Walker
Corporate Author: US Dept of Justice
United States of America
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 14
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
US Dept of Justice
Washington, DC 20531
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Legislative/Regulatory Material
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This testimony before a congressional committee focuses on efforts by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to prevent the abuse of children in institutions.
Abstract: Since 1971, the DOJ has been involved as intervenor or litigator in many cases regarding the rights of institutionalized persons, but Public Law 96-247 enacted in May 1980 will give the Attorney General explicit authority to institute suits against particular classes of institutions where evidence suggests that persons are being deprived of Federal statutory or constitutional rights. This legislation was needed because the rights of institutionalized individuals were being severely abused in many places and some courts had challenged Federal Government authority to intervene. Several cases which involved DOJ cooperation to protect children in institutions for the mentally retarded in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and New York are described. In these situations, in which children were physically injured, undernourished, and drugged unnecessarily, they actually regressed in their behavior and skills. The DOJ also participated in a case of abuse in Texas juvenile reformatories where inmates were beaten, tear gassed, and placed in solitary confinement for minor infractions. The DOJ feels that abuse of children in institutions is a serious problem, based on its experiences in the past decade, and that it needs the authority to intervene directly rather than wait for the chance to participate in private litigation. Courts have been able to help these children by prohbiting the use of medication as a substitute for programming, placing limitations on the use of mechanical restraints, and requiring adequate sanitary, nutritional, medical, and security services for inmates. The phasing out of large, isolated institutions has been legally mandated in favor of community-based alternatives. In regard to juvenile detention facilities, the courts have prohibited physical abuse, cruel and unusual punishment, and racial segregation. In some States, if a juvenile is placed in solitary confinement, counseling and daily visits by an adult professional must be provided. It is unfortunate that resorting to the legal system has been increasingly necessary to secure basic constitutional rights for institutionalized persons, but as long as that forum is needed, the DOJ can be an effective advocate for those children who cannot speak for themselves.
Index Term(s): Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act; Court ordered institutional reform; Residential child care institutions; US Department of Justice
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