tv Fault Lines Al Jazeera April 10, 2016 12:00am-12:31am EDT
>> they're tracking climate change. incarcerated with older inmates who they say brutally assaulted them. >> grabbed me around my neck and he told me he was going to. [ beep ] me. >> what we heard in the videos made us get to a plane to michigan. it was the starting point of our investigation in to the treatment of youth in the adult criminal justice system. >> we are now on the record. this goes the videotape deposition of john doe number one. >> and it began with an inmate that we'll be referring to as john
doe one. >> 10:20 a.m. >> describe the weapon? >> it was about three inches long and it was a bunch of raisers attacked to a stick. yeah, he had me face down on the bed. and he said if i scream that he was going to cut my throat. >> did you believe him? >> yes. >> i need you to describe? step by step detail what happened. so he's pumping on you for seven minutes, he finishes -- >> can we take a break? >> sure. >> i need a break . michigan many of the prisons are located in rural parts of
the state. the one where john doe one is being held is two hours drive from detroit . the michigan department of corrections has a statewide policy that no cameras are allowed inside any of its prisons but we have been told the young man will be calling us shortly from a phone inside that facility where he is currently being held. john doe one was convicted of a series of offenses including home invasion and second degree criminal sexual contact. he's been held here and at the facility across the road for more than three years. in that time, he says, he has been raped so often, he's lost count of how many times it's happened . >> i was attacked in the shower by a man that -- >> the first time, he told the
lawyers he was 17 and it was his cell mate. >> did he regularly assault new. >> yeah. almost every day. >> and then he says, his cell mate sold his key do to other prisoners, who also assaulted him. >> guys would come in and out of my room without authorization and the staff made a comment to me when one of the guys walked out of my room and he laughed at me. >> what was the comment? >> can i say it on camera? >> you can say it. >> he said that's what happens to fags . >> i am so sorry .
[ crying ] >> he's alleging prison guards knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it. >> hello. >> hello, can you hear me? he's currently locked down for 23 hours a day. he called during his one free hour on the yard. you are currently being held in protective custody, is that right? why are you being held there? can you explain that? >> well >> and do you feel safe there ?
♪ >> over the past two years, a team of lawyers here in ann arbor has been collecting testimony from other young inmates who say they were abused too . they filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 200 young inmates. debra is the lead lawyer on the case . >> hey, debrorah, it's sebastian from al jazerra. >> nice to meet you. >> nice to me you too. thank you. >> i started getting letters from youth inside and often they would say things like, really base i believe like bad things are happening to me. i can't write t can you come talk to me? or can you help me, please come talk to me.
one youth wrote about, he said he felt like a reindeer with meat on his head surrounded by lions. >> according to prison officials in michigan, they now send all minors to their own housing unit. and keep them separated from all the inmates. while the threat of rape may not be diminished, many of the youth say they have been harmed in other ways too. the lawyers filed record requests for incidents involving minors. what came back was a rare glimpse of what life is like for teenagers behind bars . one of these dvds seem to have been shot by prison guards with dozens and dozens of them. there is so much material here that the lawyers still haven't everyone got through all of it yet. >> so i am giving you a direct
order right now to back up. you. we will use chemical agent right now. the prisoner is not complying with the last order. >> stop it . coug[ covering covering ] >> take off your clothes. take off your clothes . >> i want to watch it off. >> take off your clothes. >> part of the whole thing about the suit is that -- that ewing, it's very immaterial prop tore try to place youth in adult facilities and treat them according to adult standards. they are subjected to being tasered. and they are tasered. you can be put in on terry confine think. and they are for extended periods of time. and i am talking about being in
a solitary cell for 23 hours a day. seven days a week. you are talking about food restrictions. so you are hungry, you are subject to tasering, solitary confinement, shackling, four-point and five-point restraints, all of the things that you can do to adults. >> stop. can i breathe? [ crying ] >> i can't breath! >> sit back. just relax .
john doe 11, was arrested at 17 for robbery in 2010. he was sentenced to 29 months as an adult. he had been in prison about two months when he claims an older manifold him in to the shower. >> he come in there after me and i started trying to fight him but i was slipping and sliding everywhere. and he got the best of me. >> you couldn't fight him off anymore? >> huh-uh. and and if i could, i know i would have. i was just competed. simple as that.
he got me. >> were you crying out while he was ranking you as well? >> yeah. i mean, i was scream, you know, like help, get the "f" off me. there is no way nobody heard anything. there is no way , i would never believe that. the officer's desk is like 10, 15 feet on this side of the door door. i mean too tell me you can't hear another person screaming . i just laid there in the shower crying for a pretty good amount of time. i was beat and i was wore down, i was bleeding. >> you were bleeding from your face? >> no from my rectum, you know. >> lead bleeding? >> yeah. i was trying to get myself
back together. i just fell to pieces, you know. and somehow i had to stand up and walk to my bunk. walk past everybody. >> was it hard to walk? >> oh, yeah. >> you were in pain? >> yeah. i mean, from the rape itself, from the fight, all of it. you know. >> it was difficult, he says, but eventually told his mother what happened. >> when he was in prison of course i worried about his safety and his mental state. and now that he's home, i have to worry about this eating him up inside. my son was already living with himself knowing that he was a criminal, knowing he made bad choices, knowing that he had already broken his mother's heart. and now he has to live his life as a rape victim as
well . he was 17 years old and that's what they have chosen for my child. and then to think that i couldn't protect him. but to put my trust in the judicial system to think that they could protect him and to find out that he stood in that bathroom and screamed for minutes and minutes and minutes and nobody went to help him. that's horrible. >> john doe 11 was one of more than a thousand minors sent to adult prisons in michigan since 2003. the lawsuit is focused on just a fraction of those. it's a class action open only to inmates alleged harassment or abuse since 2010. >> we are trying to move this case forward and have this court address the issues before 2018, your honor, so --
>> the complaint was first filed in 2013. but it's going to be some time before the case gets to trial. and the state's lawyers are trying to get it thrown out altogether. >> let these plaintiffs support, prove their own claims because they are all different. >> they all have one thing in common, a very significant allegations or claim which is that they were all incarcerated as juveniles in adult facilities with adults and claim that they were injured by that practice. and that's -- this is the central issue of liability. >> is it? to me it isn't. to me the issue you -- the central issue of liability is were they injured? did these vents, in fact, occur? >> whether or not the events occurred, will be for a jury to decide in this case . outside the courtroom the department of corrections are said they are confident aversions made in the lawsuit
are false. but michigan's governor, rick snide he should who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, hasn't directly addressed the allegations so far. we caught with him at a press conference he was holding in detroit. so the governor has just arrived and we have heard he's going to be make ago i major statement just shortly about criminal justice and prison reform. >> one thing we need to recognize the vast majority of the people that are incarcerated are coming back out. and should be coming back out. and the question is, is by helping them be successful coming back out it's a win for all of us. >> the governor's speech made no mention of concerns about the conditions for minors in michigan's prisons. what is your response that allegations of young men under the age of 18 have been sexually abuses and abused in serious criminal ways in prisons in michigan and feel that the state
failed to protect them? >> yeah, actually that's in litigation. so i can't comment on active matters where the state is a party to litigation, that wouldn't be legally appropriate. so what i would say is with respect to looking at the overall subject matter if you read the message you will see that i have a section in there on the prison rape act. and how to deal with it in terms of us being proactive on that topic. >> do you think if it did happen the state would be liable, though? i mean -- >> that's a matter of litigation and i am not going to speculate on litigation. >> but is it your position -- the prison rape he limb action act the governor was throwing to, known as p r.a. i is try to reduce sexual assaults in prison, it was pass ed in 2003, but it wasn't until almost 10 years later in he michigan's department of corrections began separating minors from adults. we had heard that there were several corrections officials at the event. since we had been requesting an
interview for weeks with no success, we tried approaching them directly. i a am sebastian walk we are al jazerra. we wanted know why it had taken so long for the state to act on federal findings. >> i'm not going to comment on that. >> but nobody wanted to talk. here is michigan's top corrections official, telling me to go and speak to his staff. so if we do get somebody -- >> it will be me. >> it will be on you -- >> eventually this spokesperson did agree to an interview . we wanted to find out how many assault complaints the department received when youth were still being housed with adults. would it not be obvious that younger inmates would be targeted more frequently for this type of attack given their more vulnerable status? >> again, it predates me so i can't comment on something that
was taking place or not taking place before i was. if i can find those numbers for you, then i can provide that to you. >> i spokesperson told us they have turned over more than half a million pages of documents. and more than 500 videos. but so far none of it, he says, proves any of the allegations. >> so do you think if these investigations actually discovered that the allegations of abuse were true, then the mdoc would accept responsibility for that? >> that would be something to -- that's a -- that's something that we would have to look at and it's not something that i can comment on right now. >> if somebody in your custody, a minor you , was raped by an adult inmate of one of the prisons here in michigan, you can't say for sure that you would everybody be responsible for that? [speaking at the same time] >> a court of law would determine that and whatever happened would come off after that, but that's all i can say at this points. that's a hypothetical just allegations that his have been
attention. >> have you heard some of these storys? >> i have read them. i have heard them. you know, i have met people that have said they have been abused. >> do you think it's plausible that, you know, some of those shore is could be true? >> i am convinced of it. >> and other people in this chamber, do you think also are of the same mind, they just don't want to say that openly? >> i agree. yeah. absolutely.
i think that people understand what has happened, what goes on, but listen, i am not going to be concerned about it because it's way over there and it's something that i don't have every day access to and it's something that the people in my district, it isn't going to resonate with them. you know, and that's the attitude that they take unfortunately. right now what we are doing -- >> santana thinks separating minors from adults is not enough. he and several colleagues plan to propose legislation to keep youth out of adult facilities altogether. >> if your job is to make sure that people are treated decently, humanely inside of our correctional system, and i use the word correctional, your job is to correct the behavior, so that one day they get leased back there to society. if we are not doing that, then we have failed. ♪ ♪ >> the legislature has yet to change many of the harsh sentencing laws that were enacted decades ago. and that has had an impact on
the lives of teens and their families across the state. people like never lynn grays. >> me and my brother. >> that's you? >> that's me. >> and that's d.j.? >> yes. that's him. the last time i saw him was in the county jail. he was 14, 14, 15 in the county jail. >> it looks like you guys are close. >> yeah, we are super close. >> she was still in school with her little brother, dennis, jr., was arrested for carjacking. she still has the letters he wrote her from jail. >> tell mom i miss her and i love her. i think about y'all every night. write me back as soon as y'all get this letter. when you do, i am going to try to get ahold of an envelope and write back as soon as i can . >> does that make you sad?
>> yeah, it makes me saad sad a. a lot. >> dennis, jr. was transferred from county jail to an adult prison when he was 16. less than three months later, he hanged himself in his cell. nevlynn said she had noticed a change in the tone of his letters. >> it wasn't him. it wasn't something that he would right. even when i opened the letter, and you know you see eyes and tears falling from it, it was like, what is he going through? like don't do that. you know. it was like, you know, that last cry for help, that's all i got, you know what i am saying. >> she says she doesn't know exactly why her brother took his own life. but she says one thing is clear, he never should have been sent to an adult facility. >> you can't sit here and tell me you will be okay with your child, your son mingling with an adult your age. these are babies in prison, you
know . ♪ ♪ >> the policies that have september thousands of youth to adult prisons in michigan are now being questioned. but so far, the laws are you main in place . meanwhile, former and current prisoners continue to come forward with allegations . some of them echo the testimony of those first john does. >> i don't like people touching me. i can't sleep well at night. afraid . just it really has me thinking about myself and different things. >> you are ashamed?
>> each year, nearly 12 million arrests are made in the united states. >> is this pretty full for you guys? >> no, no this is just average, i guess you could say. >> okay. >> that's the population of los angeles and new york combined, booked into thousands of local jails. >> do you know how long some of these men have been held here? >> mmmm. i don't, o