Mind Matters

Once again I channel Charles—Dickens, that is. It’s not hard
to see the need for his form of muckraking while hearing or reading the news.
The most recent story to raise my ire is about the Pennsylvania youth unjustly
incarcerated in juvenile detention centers so that the judges that sentenced
them could, apparently, get rich. These two judges were bribed by privately
owned youth facilities.

Working early in my career in Western Pennsylvania, in
community mental health, I dealt with family court, probation officers, and
juvenile detention centers firsthand. In those days as well, young teens, who
had done little but be “incorrigible” to their parents, were placed in juvenile
detention—but rarely for any length of time. It was not a pretty scene, but to
my knowledge, no one was making money off their young trauma. Reading now about
corrupt judges being bribed by corrupt, for-profit jails is an abomination.

Culpability does not rest with the judges and their
companies alone. Others may be implicated as well, including a psychologiest,
reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer (November 30, 2009) to be a relative of
one of the judges who profited also.

Federal prosecutors say that thousands of teens were
remanded to detention centers after denial of constitutional rights. These
teens included a 16-year-old boy charged with driving without a license, then
jailed for eight months with his social security survivor benefits (from the
death of his father) being garnished by the court. Another typical story is
that of the young girl who lampooned her assistant principal in a brief MySpace
piece.

Most stories did not warrant going to court in the first
place, let alone the severe punishment that ensued. How is it that these judges
and the for-profit juvenile jails got away with this outrageous behavior for so
long?

We ought to be protecting all our children, no matter what
their socio-economic status. My hunch is that many of these families were duped
by the system because they did not have the means, mindset, or opportunity to
question the unjust practices of these officials.

I cannot help but wonder also about the state of these
profit institutions. If these private corporations had no qualms about bribing
judges, what is the corollary of that immoral and uncaring attitude? There
needs to be a thorough investigation of not only how these unjustly
incarcerated teens were treated, but also how teens who are placed legally are
cared for.

When do we as a society recognize that our youth are our
best “asset” for the future. To treat teens with such cruelty for personal gain
is a Dickens’ story gone 21st century. And yet we, in this “new age,” should
know better.

We know that the adolescent brain is not a “done deal.” We
know that young minds (and bodies) rely on competent adults to give
compassionate guidance and to model right behavior. A few weeks ago there was a
great uproar in the neighborhood about two dogs who were maliciously killed.
Now again, let us rally: for the well-being of the children in our midst. No
matter where they live, they are our future.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling
psychology and is in private practice in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She
welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com
or (610)388-2888. Past columns are posted to www.drgajdos.com.

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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