Pennsylvania’s torture chamber for juveniles

by LeQue Ball

“If they come for men in the morning, they’ll be back for the women and children that night.” – African Proverb

I am a 19-year-old Black male from Pittsburg, Penn. This is my first time being in a state prison. I was shot by a white male police officer in the leg and hip. I was falsely accused of a crime when I was minding my own business.

I’ve been in prison a few months now for a two-year term. When I first came here, I went through processing for a couple of months, then was sent to the only jail in the state that specifically holds juveniles, called SCI Pine Grove.

A guard humiliates juvenile prisoners.
A guard humiliates juvenile prisoners.

SCI Pine Grove is where they brainwash and dehumanize mainly Black children. I was sent to a block called LDP, which stands for Leadership Development Program.

On this block, guards literally scream in your face when you didn’t do anything wrong, command you to do push-ups and even tell you to tap dance for them. When a white guard steps on the pod, every inmate has to stand up straight as in the military and scream at the top of their lungs, “Attention on deck!” all to be told to carry on.

Failure to do so, you would be issued a misconduct citation for not following a staff directive. LDP is a 90-day program. During these 90 days, we cannot sleep from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. We cannot take off our state boots, order food, read newspapers or magazines, or take one hour of recreation out of our cells.

LDP is considered general population because it’s not RHU, better known as the hole. Some of the juveniles prefer the hole so they can get away from humiliation, but those who stay, they will have to put up with the humiliation.

LDP also messes up juvenile parole. I’m currently in RHU. I came to prison with a two-to-four- year sentence, and now I have no choice but to max out my sentence. I was sent to RHU for refusing to obey a silly order.

LDP is considered general population because it’s not the hole. Some of the juveniles prefer the hole so they can get away from humiliation, but those who stay, they will have to put up with the humiliation.

While at LDP, I found out that my counselor called my grandmother to inform her that I am disrespectful to the guards and that I am a threat to the program. My grandmother wrote me to tell me about the situation. My counselor lied blatantly and, in essence, tried to tear my family apart.

I’m not the only victim of this sort of situation. Counselors call loved ones or family members and feed them lies about us and tear us apart from our family and friends. Most of the time, it works.

Parents, friends or loved ones sometimes feel like we aren’t trying to stay out of the hole, we are following after someone, or we just don’t want to leave prison. They start to think that we love being locked down or in jail, period.

While here at RHU, I’ve seen brothers come from general population to clean the block. On one occasion, I asked a brother who was wiping handles of inmate doors if he could wipe my window because it was dirty on the outside. He looked at me, then looked at his boss (or his master) and said, “I don’t want to lose my job.”

I now sit back and think about this whole system. There is an African proverb that says, “Too much fear creates slavery.” This system is nothing but another form of slavery.

There is an African proverb that says, “Too much fear creates slavery.” This system is nothing but another form of slavery.

While being in these chambers, I noticed that in Pennsylvania, juveniles don’t have advocates to speak on their behalf, so mistreatments happen and will continue to happen in the dark until brought out into the light. Until then, these juveniles will continue to live under this mass incarceration in Pennsylvania’s torture chamber for juveniles.

Send our brother some love and light: LeQue Ball, LR-8303, SCI Pine Grove, 191 Fyock Road, Indiana, PA 15201.

Note that the provider of the Leadership Development Program is the Geo Group, one of the world’s largest private prison firms.