The Digital Journalist
© Steve Liss
"No Place for Children: Voices From Juvenile Detention"

An 11-year-old is told to walk on the edge of the corridor by a drill sergeant at Webb County Juvenile Detention Center.

Behind the barbed-wire fence of the Webb County Juvenile Detention Center, the world loses its shape and takes on the contours of cinder-block cells with steel beds bolted to the floor. The only color is the bright orange of the uniforms that are several sizes too big for the youngest guests, some of whom are only 10 years old. Regardless of age, the system does not discriminate: Children who have shoplifted, graffitied a wall, or run away from home sit next to kids who have shot and stabbed people. Others wriggle on the floor in restraints, screaming as they experience the symptoms of drug withdrawal in the emptiness of a jail cell. "All of a sudden you have the first-timers being trained by multiple offenders," says Adam Rodriguez, a Webb County probation officer. "Ten days later you release this kid and you've got a little monster, because he's learned how to pack a .45, how to do a drive-by and be able to abscond from the police."