Reylene, who asked that her full name not be used, turned 17 a few months ago. When she arrived in handcuffs at the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention and Youth Services Center in Albuquerque, N.M., she received much the same treatment as if she were a boy.
First, Reylene’s shoes were removed and she was given a full pat-down to check for contraband, like drugs or weapons. After showering and putting on her uniform, she was given a brief medical intake form (with questions mostly designed for boys) to make sure that she didn’t need emergency medical services before being booked. The screening lasted about 15 minutes and was administered by the facility’s staff nurse in a small room attached to the intake area. The door remained open for security purposes, with guards and new residents passing by. Without privacy, she was unlikely to reveal important health information, especially if she had been previously victimized. Reylene was weighed and measured, and her vital signs taken. Next, the nurse asked Reylene questions about her current medications, whether she had taken alcohol or drugs in the past 24 hours, was feeling suicidal, or if she had a history of self-destructive behavior. There were a handful of questions given only to girls: Are you pregnant? If so, have you started prenatal care? What form of birth control do you use?
During the screen, however, Reylene didn’t mention a major health issue she was facing: painful red burns across her breasts. “Usually I’m pretty straightforward, but, I lied to [the nurse] when I first came in here, about my burns,” says Reylene, who explained that she doesn’t know exactly what happened because she was passed out when she was burned. The nurse saw the burns through her tank top. Reylene was evasive. She didn’t want them to be investigated. Girls in detention are hesitant to trust people, she explained. “We’ve been through a lot and we don’t want to put nothing on blast. We just want to keep to ourselves.” Later, Reylene said that because her burns were not treated early enough, she realized she might be scarred for life.
Adapted story as recounted by Jenny Gold. “In juvenile detention, girls find health system geared to boys,” NPR Shots. (2012, November 26).