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A mother watches helplessly as her teenage boy deteriorates in a Texas youth prison

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For 24/7 mental health support in English or Spanish, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s free help line at 800-662-4357. You can also reach a trained crisis counselor through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling or texting 988, or you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741.

It started with the cuts — dozens of angry slices on his forearms.

It was December 2020, and the McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility had stopped visitation due to COVID-19. Keith, then 14, says he was supposed to get two FaceTime calls a week with his mother but his requests for the calls were denied. It made him angry, so he cut himself.

“I done it because even if you talk to [the staff], it’s like they don’t realize what I really want. So I had to do this just to show them,” he said.

In the following weeks, there were more cuts — deep, fresh wounds over barely healed scars. By September 2021, it had escalated. Keith started inserting objects in his urethra — bits of metal, glass and wood. He has now been hospitalized and had surgery 12 times for incidents of severe self-harm, including three times in March 2022 alone. After each hospitalization, he has returned to Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities, where the cycle repeats.

[Almost 600 Texas youths are trapped in a juvenile prison system on the brink of collapse]

Asked in mid-April why he was hurting himself, Keith’s answer was simple. He’s been in detention since he was 11. He missed his mother.

Asked in mid-April why he was hurting himself, Keith’s answer was simple. He’s been in detention since he was 11. He missed his mother.

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Sourabh Verma franklin
Sourabh Verma,From Franklin Tn - Sub-editor in Asian News International(ANI) I am a detailed-driven journalist with 3+ years of experience in news writing and copy-editing, I can file quick, compelling and error-free stories as they break. I have sound knowledge of national and international issues and have covered stories across beats, including politics, parliament, legal and crime like drugs and Human Trafficking at Asian News International (ANI), where I currently work. Some of these include extensive coverage of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, several state Assembly elections, Parliament sessions, COVID-19 pandemic and other stories of national importance. A typical working day involves copy-editing dozens of drafts, managing junior sub-editors in shifts and keeping an eye on developing stories. This added responsibility followed a couple of years of filing stories based on press briefings, bytes and inputs from reporters on the ground.
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