JUVENILE JUSTICE IN TEXAS: ABANDONING AMERICA'S FUTURE?
STATEMENT OF RODNEY HULIN
FATHER OF 17-YEAR OLD ABUSED IN ADULT PRISON
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Good morning. My name is Rodney Hulin and I work at a retirment home in
Beaumont, Texas. I am here today because of my son. He would be here
himself if he coud, and he would have spoken out against this plan by
Congress to house juvenile offenders in adu!
lt prisons. But he can't because he died in one of those prisons.
In 1995, my son, Rodney Jr., was charged with arson when he was 16 years
old. Luckily, no one was hurt in the fire. Of course, that doesn't excuse
the fact that what my son did was foolish. After admitting his involvement
in the offense, my son was sentenced to eight years in an adult prison.
Rodney spent his first year in a prison in Abilene, Texas without any
problems. He had a clean record, and was hopeful he would be recommended
for parole in a few years. Then, without any notice, he was transferred to
the Clemens Unit in Brazoria County on
November 13, 1995. Almost immediately, the problems began. Less than a
week after the transfer, Rodney wrote to me from his new unit. It was
obvious that his situation had taken a turn for the worse. Let me read a
quick excerpt from that letter.
"Dad, I'm really scared, scared that I will die in here. Please pray for
me. Pray that I will get my job changed, sent to a hospital, get out of
here alive, and that I will get out on parole...I want to live with you
when I get out, if I get out alive".
My son was a fighter, so I knew he wasn't just letting prison life get to
him. The new prison was different. The inmates were tougher; the guards
had less control and didn't seem to care what happened to Rodney, who was
just 17 years old at the time.
Two days after he sent me that letter, my son was raped and sodomized by an
inmate. The doctor found two tears in his rectum and ordered an HIV test,
since up to a third of the
2,200 inmates there were HIV positive. Fearing for his safety, he
requested to be placed in protective custody, but his request was denied
because, as the warden put it,
"Rodney's abuses didn't meet the "emergency grievance criteria".
For the next several months, my son was repeatedly beaten by the older
inmates, forced to perform oral sex, robbed, and beaten again. Each time,
his requests for protection were denied by the warden. The abuses,
On the night of January 26, 1996---75 days after my son entered
Clemens--Rodney attempted suicide by hanging himself in his cell. He could
no longer stand to live in continual terror. It was too much for him to
handle. He laid in a coma for the next
four months until he died.
The night of the suicide, my son had written about being tired of prison
life, and tired of living. That letter had been passed onto a prison guard
by a friend of my son, who told the guard that Rodney needed immediate
attention. The guard shrugged off an!
y concern and walked in the opposite direction. Sometime during those next
15 minutes, before the guard made his rounds to my son's cell, my son
decided he had enough and acted on his depression.
Unlike that prison guard, Congress could not have done anything to save my
Congress does have the power to prevent my son's tragedy fro happening to
others. Sending young children to adult prisons will not make our streets
any safer. Sending
children to be beaten, raped, and robbed does not deter crime.
I did not give up on my son, then, and I don't believe Congress should give
up on our nation's children now. Children who commit crimes need to be
rehabilitated, and shown
consideration and care. They do not deserve to be crucified for political
gain. If there is any lesson to be learned by my son's death, it is that
children must not be locked up with adult criminals.
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