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Teen Prison / Teen Prisoners


Proposed Definition: A teen prisoner is someone between the ages of 13 and 17 who, because of their age, and not due to any crime, is not free to leave their schools, homes, or countries.


Extensive work done in the field of teen suicide prevention has made it clear that one way to help prevent youth suicide is to change the laws which restrict young people's freedom to leave unhealthy environments. In many countries, when a person is under the age of 18 they are not legally free to make changes in their living or educational environments, even when such changes are in their own health and survival interests.

Many teenagers in the world today are not free to do a wide variety of things, simply because of their age. They have committed no crime, yet their freedom is restricted in many ways.

For example,

They are not free to choose where they live. They are not free to choose who they live with, what home or what country they live in. If they leave without parental consent, they can be forcibly returned by the police.

They are not free to choose whether they wish to attend schools, which schools to attend or how they get their education.

They are not free to choose who they have friendships with or where they receive emotional support. Their parents can prevent them from making such choices through various means.

They are not free to travel. In most countries a young person cannot get a passport without a parent's signature until the age of 18. (Note about safe travel for young people.)

Suicidal teens, in particular, need more freedom than they have. They are obligated to live in emotionally unsupportive, unhealthy environments, and are not free to leave these environments.

They may not want to go to schools where they are often humiliated, laughed at, bullied, invalidated, threatened, and punished. Yet they are legally forced to go. Or in some cases, depending on the country and individual situation, their parents impose home-schooling, when the young person would rather learn in a place where they can make friends and share ideas, experiences and beliefs.

The majority of young people around the world are not free to choose where they want to learn. If a young person said "I would rather spend 6 or 8 hours a day in the public library or learning on line," they would mostly likely be told that is not an option.

In some countries, once they have entered the school, they are not allowed to leave, even for a short break, without permission from a school authority or parent.

In some schools in the world, for example, in Thailand, Indonesia, and various countries in South America teenagers are literally locked in. There are walls or fences around the schools, and the doors and gates are locked and have security guards making sure no students leave. It is not just a matter of not allowing outsiders in for security reasons, but it is also an issue of not allowing the students out. In fact, it is difficult to know the real motives for the locks.

Here is just one picture of a school in Peru, with a close up of the lock. It is believed there are many other schools around the world where the students are locked in.


Each country has different laws but the majority have some laws restricting the freedom of teens. Freedom to leave an emotionally unhealthy home or school could mean the difference between life and death for a suicidal teen.

Safe Travel

In the past there were no organized, established systems to protect young people when traveling away from their parents. Now, however there are networks such as Couchsurfing which use real-life references that could be a model for a safe system. In America, caring individuals once set up the Underground Railroad to help protect slaves and get them safely to freedom in healthier environments. Now it would be possible to set up legal systems to help teenagers find healthy and safe places to live and learn.


2011 Note - This article was started about 5 years ago. Recently a US university professor has written in detail about how schools are prisons and about the connection between anxiety, depression and school. A link to his writing is found below.

Also, in the USA it is increasingly common for teens to get life in prison as a legal punishment. If you search teen prison, for example, you will find many stories. I mention this because it shows how little the general public and the politicians understand cause and effect. Or how to solve social problems. You could say it also shows how countries like the USA lack emotional understanding in general. S.Hein


18 Year Old in Argentina Told She Can't Leave the House

School is Prison Article, by Peter Gray

Teen Prisoners in Indonesia Article - About restorative justice

Abusive Environments, Gypsies and Education

Letter from Gina

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from http://freetheteens.blogspot.com/

Everybody has rights. They're in the constitution, the workplace, and even our schools. So why is it that our own home holds no freedom for us?? How does that make any sense!? My mom's the worst. She says that I'm a grown up who needs to do chores, run to the store when she needs me to, and make good grade (which I do) yet she denies me the simple freedom to form an opinion of my own. She has told me, and I quote, "You don't know what  you're talking about! You're just a kid! A stupid kid." Uh hello! I'm 17 and will be 18, which from what I remember is the legal age to be an adult! NOT a kid. My birthday come before I graduate and she told me today that I HAVE to stay here until I graduate. Unfortunately for her, that's not the case. She strips me of my rights as a human being. Someone with ideas, beliefs, and even opinions. She has told me that I'm not allowed to go to church because God is a myth and that he's stupid. My dad use to be on my side....but not anymore. Now she's always right! Even though she lies to him about me!! My brother though always gets attention from her. She will get off the computer to talk to him about his anime things but she won't even look up when I try to talk to her about college....