This testimony was located on Reddit (link)
A friend of mine showed me this sub recently and since I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened to me in 2000. I wanted to share my story.
I was 16 and my best friend and I attended a birthday party where the cops showed up and we were arrested for underage drinking. We were sent home with our parents (no actual jail time) and given court dates. My court date was first and I was put on parental supervision house arrest (no ankle bracelet) I was allowed only to attend school and do my community service hours, and I was put on probation for 6 months. A term of the probation was that I was not allowed to speak to or associate with anyone else who was on probation. When my friend had her court date they asked if she knew what my punishment was. She said yes and they asked how she knew and she said because I had told her.
That evening my mother received a phone call from my probation officer saying that I needed to return to court the next day as I was in violation of probation for communicating with my friend. Technically this could not have been a violation as my friend wasn’t on probation when I spoke to her, only I was. Her probation didn’t actually start until her court date. But this did not matter to the judge.
When we showed up to the courthouse I had no idea I wouldn’t be going back home that day. I was told that I was going to be sent to a juvenile facility for at least 28 days, that there would be a hearing then to decide if I could be released back to my mother or if they would extend my stay in the facility.
I was sent to MRDC (Muncie Reception and Diagnostic Center) in Muncie, Indiana. It was a privately run, “hands on”, bootcamp style kiddie jail that has since been permanently closed. It was a nightmare. I have never experienced such a cruel and petty group of adults in my life as the staff of this place. From the moment I was brought in I was humiliated, lied about and abused.
I was 16 and a troubled kid, I guess. I had issues with depression and self harm. At the time I had blue and green dyed hair, facial piercings and several self inflicted cuts on my chest. During the intake process I was stripped naked and made to cover myself in a gallon jug of Lysol. The woman guard directing this activity approached me with a gloved hand and forcefully rubbed the chemicals into my wounds on my chest to “make sure they were clean”. She then told the other guards that the cuts on my body were part of a gang initiation, that I was a gang member and that my boyfriend was a drug dealer and that I had been arrested for being involved in gang related drug trade. None of this was true. I didn’t know anyone who was associated with gang activity and dont think I even had a boyfriend. I’m unclear to this day why she felt the need to spread these lies about me to her fellow staff members but I spent my time there being referred to as “drug dealer”, “blood”, “crip”, etc. I was ridiculed and made fun of constantly and was not ever allowed to respond or correct them.
The first night there is a bit of a blur. I was given a uniform and a handbook of the rules. I was told never to speak unless spoken to, never to look anyone in the eyes, never to speak to or look at the other inmates in my dorm and to do what I was told at all times. The days consisted of shower time, breakfast, physical exercise, school time, lunch, school time, physical exercise, dinner and bed. Any time in between you were only allowed to read your rule book or stare directly forward without meeting anyone’s eyeline.
The first incident of me getting in trouble was in the school room. They were doing a math lesson of some sort, worksheets I think. My pencil tip broke and I raised my hand to ask if I could sharpen it. Without thinking I raised the hand that had the pencil in it and before I could speak a guard charged my desk and slammed my face into it. She said I had tried to stab her and that I’d be going to isolation.
My first time in isolation lasted a few hours and they didn’t take my clothes. It was cold but not unbearably so. I was just put in a small cement cell with a toilet and a security camera. I was given a piece of bread with peanut butter on it at some point and then they sent me back to the dorm room to read the rules and go to bed.
The next day came the second incident. During the physical training exercises I was placed in the front of the dorm, I couldn’t see the other girls behind me. The woman in charge told us to do “monkey humpers”. I had never heard of this exercise and I couldn’t see anyone else to copy their movements, so with great anxiety I raised my hand to ask what I was supposed to do. After a little verbal abuse and humiliation, she asked one of the other inmate girls to demonstrate the exercise for me once. She did and then the woman guard had everyone watch as I attempted it. I tried three times and kept falling over. I got stressed out and started to cry the third time. The woman got down in my face and screamed something like, “I don’t want to hear your fucking sob stories, drug dealer!” I broke down a screamed back “I never told you any sob stories, maam!” And that was it. I was dragged into the hallway by my hair and slammed against the wall. I was cuffed and brought back to isolation.
This time I was stripped naked and this time the heat in the isolation wing was either broken or purposefully turned off, I’m not sure. It was the end of December, just before Christmas and was snowing outside when I’d arrived. I asked the guards if I could keep my underwear and pad because I was on my period and was refused and told just to “sit on the toilet all night if I didn’t want to bleed on myself”. I did. I was freezing cold and mentally stretched to my limit. There were moments I felt like I was starting to mildly hallucinate, like seeing the stains on the walls and floors start to move and undulate. I wasn’t well. I faked a seizure to try to get the nursing staff to help me. The nurse who arrived laughed at me and told me not to call again unless I was dead.
All evening and night I sat naked on the toilet and cried. Every hour or so, male guards would open the eye slit on the door to check on me, usually followed by some sort of disgusting or cruel remark and laughter. I was a naked child being ogled and made fun of.
Around 5 or six that morning something good happened. A man opened the door. He was the first person to address me by name and look in my eyes. He brought me a blanket, panties and a pad. And he informed me that due to my mom and my therapist hounding the judge and probation officers, it had been decided that my new hearing would be the next day. My case would be heard but it was very possible I would be returning to the facility. He knew I hadn’t slept since I’d been sitting on the toilet for 16 hours and said I should try to curl up on the ground and sleep for a bit before they came to take me to court. I did.
A few hours later two different men came back. They had brought the clothes I had been wearing when I came in and another piece of peanut butter bread, an apple and a carton of milk. I was instructed to dress, eat and wait for them to come back. I was never allowed a shower or to brush my teeth or hair.
When they returned they brought my winter coat and told me to put it on. They then cuffed me and zipped the coat all the way up over my chin and nose. I was put in a transport van for the two hour ride back to my hometown. The smell started to hit. I couldn’t understand what I was smelling, I just knew it was bad and it was inescapable. The jacket didn’t feel wet as I can remember, but I noticed the seams in the puffy quilting looked dirty like something was crusted on them. It took me a while to process it. Someone must have urinated on my coat around the time I was initially stripped in intake, then let it dry while my clothes were in storage there.
I went to the hearing knowing it was possible I’d be sent back but luckily I wasn’t. The Hendricks county courthouse has several stories, each level with a round center balcony looking down into a courtyard. I had figured if they tried to send me back I wouldn’t be able to handle it and I would just jump over and hope to get hurt enough to end up in a hospital instead. (I heard a few years back that a kid did end up doing just that and died).
It took a few weeks before I was normal. I still said ma’am and sir and couldn’t look at anyone in the eyes for a while. Spoke very seldom. I felt like a robot zombie. Once my mom got the whole story out of me she was furious and decided to sue MRDC. My lawyer was able to obtain all the security footage from the isolation cell and I still have them in a drawer somewhere. I’ve never watched them. We settled out of court for a certain dollar amount (that was the one stipulation we agreed to, that I was never allowed to publicly disclose the exact figure, but I can say that after the lawyer took half, it wasn’t very much money).
My mom wanted to go to Dateline or 20/20 with the story but I didn’t really want to. I just wanted to move on. The good thing is that the amount that was paid came out of MRDC’s pocket, if I remember correctly, there was some sort of lapse in their insurance and they had to pay me out-of -pocket. That was something at least. The place stayed open for years beyond my stay there and Judge Bowles continued sending kid after underserving kid there. After seeing the documentary CASH FOR KIDS, it occurred to me that that was probably the kind of scam he had going. Not sure when it happened, but I looked up MRDC this week and it says it’s been permanently closed.
If anyone reading made it this far, thanks for your time. I’m sure tons of people in this group have had more heinous experiences. But this one was enough for me. Scared me straight, I suppose, but didn’t do any favors for my mental health.