Mothers of kids abused in prison recall their pain

Tracy McClard’s Story

Jonathan McClard was 16 when he was incarcerated in an adult Missouri jail. One year later, three days after his birthday, he committed suicide in his cell.

In 2007 Jonathan shot Jeremy Voshage, the boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend, three times.  The ex-girlfriend was pregnant with Jonathan’s child and the police said the incident developed out of a love triangle. Voshage suffered severe wounds and had to be hospitalized for a month.

McClard pled guilty, landing him a 30-year sentence to be served in an adult prison. The prosecutor was quoted as saying that he wanted to send a message that if you hurt a human being, you were going to pay for it by spending life in prison.

Jonathan’s mother Tracy told theGrio that her son was a math whiz and often the peacemaker at school. In jail, before being remanded to an adult facility, he was taking his high school courses and getting high grades.  Despite the fact that Jonathan was recommended for a special program that would have provided education and therapeutic services in a secure facility for juveniles charged as an adult, his bid was denied — without reason, according to his mother.

Tracy told the Grio that when she visited Jonathan the second time, his face was marked by cuts and bruises. He told his mom that he saw some men take a new guy in the back and assault him to the point where he was unrecognizable.  He said that being raped was a constant source of fear. She says the pain of seeing her son deteriorate in that adult prison was unbearable.

Following Jonathan’s death, McClard became an advocate joining The Campaign For Youth Justice. She said she wanted to save other families from the pain and suffering that her family had to deal with.

Grace Bauer’s Story

Corey Bauer was arrested in Louisiana for breaking into a truck with two friends and stealing a radio in 2001.  He was 13 and weighed around 90 pounds, according to his mother Grace, when he was imprisoned in Tallulah Correctional Center, a Louisiana maximum security juvenile prison. Bauer told his mother that that he was raped by another inmate.

She says that over the course of her visits, she saw lumps on his forehead, a print of a ring on the side of his head, a black eye, and a bruise shaped like a boot on his rib cage. A young man who was incarcerated with her son told Grace that Corey had been sexually assaulted. Corey shared that he was routinely beaten up by guards and held in solitary confinement.  He came home a year later suffering from post-traumatic stress and depression.

In 1998, the facility was sued by the U.S. Justice Department for “failing to protect youthful inmates from brutality by guards and providing inadequate education, medical and mental health care.”  There is no record of prison officials commenting on the case and the prison was closed in 2004.

Linda Bruntmyer’s Story

Rodney Hulin was 16 when he was sent to an adult Texas prison for setting trash on fire in 1995. His mother, Linda Bruntmyer, testified in June of 2005 before the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. She told the panel that in a grievance letter to prison officials, Rodney wrote, “I have been sexually and physically assaulted several times, by several inmates. I am afraid to go to sleep, to shower, and just about everything else.” He told his mother that he was afraid he might die at any minute.

Bruntmyer said Rodney was denied being removed from what her son considered a dangerous prison environment. Bruntmyer said she called the warden but was told that his son did not meet the “emergency grievance criteria.” She then told the commission that Rodney intentionally violated the rules so that he would be put in “segregation.” In a phone call, shortly after being segregated, Hulin told his mother that he was emotionally and mentally destroyed. She said that was the last time she heard her son’s voice. In January 1996, he hanged himself in his cell. He was 17 years old.

Hulin’s parents filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, saying the system failed to protect their son. The Houston Post reported that the state settled and family accepted $215,000. Carl Reynolds, general counsel for the Department of Criminal Justice, maintained that in settling, the state admitted to no wrongdoing.