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,

meanwhile, continued.

 

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

son. But,

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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