This story from the New York Times and UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism looks into years of torment and abuse at Ware Youth Center, one of Louisiana’s largest juvenile detention centers. Megan Shutzer and Rachel Lauren Mueller conducted more than 100 interviews with people previously held at the facility, as well as current and former staff members; they also examined security footage and thousands of pages of records and court documents. What they found: repeated abuse from staff members (30 have been accused of sexual abuse, including a manager), children held in prolonged isolation, guards bribing children to beat up other children, and an increase in suicidal attempts. For years, Ware’s leaders have not reported complaints of abuse, while local law enforcement has continued to brush off allegations. As Shutzer and Mueller’s reporting shows, this horrific place, meant to help and support children, has descended into “chaos and cruelty.”

In fact, while some of the children at Ware are held for violent crimes, a vast majority are girls and boys like Solan Peterson, sent there for nonviolent offenses or infractions as minor as skipping school. “We knew there would be consequences,” his mother said, “but my kid didn’t deserve to die because he set fire to a roll of toilet paper in a school.”

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.