When juveniles are kept in adult jails and prisons, many are placed in solitary confinement for their own safety—but that can amount to psychological torture, experts tell NBC News. Imprisoned kids talk "about being in a cell alone, the size of a parking space, the size of an elevator," says one analyst. "This is sort of the dark secret of the criminal justice system." But that's what happens when parents can't make bail or juveniles have to serve prison time as an adult.
More than 90% of juveniles in adult jails and prisons are not there for serious crimes like rape or murder, says an attorney. And according to one report, many of them have mental health issues before going into solitary. One 17-year-old drunk driver, kept in "the hole" in a Denver county jail, simply wrapped a sheet around his neck until he was dead. Among those who survive, "Ninety-five percent of them are gonna get out back into your community," says a psychiatrist. "What do you want them to be like when they get out?"