My 16-year-old daughter likes the music they play on our local college radio station. She likes holing up in her room after school, eating whenever and whatever she wants, using the cell phone her mom provides to chat with her boyfriend late at night, and pressuring us to let her drink coffee and wine. She never says “please” or “thank you,” fights with her mother sometimes, and generally acts like she believes she is the best thing since sliced bread.
From what I’m told, she’s a typical 16-year-old.
Gynnya McMillen was a typical 16-year-old too. She was a quiet, healthy, beautiful person with no criminal history. On January 11, one day after she arrived at the Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for the terrible crime of fighting with her mom, she was found dead in her cell.
Once she arrived at the center, she refused to take off her sweatshirt and the staff immobilized her using a martial arts hold known as “Aikido restraint.” She spent just one night at the center (without a roommate), but didn’t respond to two offers of food and a phone call from her mom.
You’d think the staff would have checked on her at some point but they didn’t. Even when they finally discovered Gynnya unresponsive in her room, the center nurse didn’t immediately try to resuscitate her, waiting 11 minutes and talking with police before finally performing CPR.
Of course, nothing can reunite Gynnya with her family. Since we can’t give her back to those who love her, we can at least give them answers. Demand that the Kentucky Juvenile Justice Commission or GOP Governor Matt Bevin release surveillance video and provide answers for Gynnya’s death. (She had no bruise marks and no history of heart issues.)
Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice
1025 Capital Center Drive
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Governor Matt Bevin
Office of the Governor
700 Capitol Avenue, Suite 100
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
As with adults, black kids who haven’t been convicted of any crimes are placed in detention centers at higher rates for similar crimes as their counterparts. And Lincoln Village, like many prisons and detention centers, receives government funding per day for each child they have in custody. Nothing like providing incentive to incarcerate, huh?
This tragedy didn’t have to happen. Gynnya could have been my daughter – or yours.
The “Justice for Gynnya McMillen” Facebook page is here.
UPDATE: A source informed me that Gynnya's detention was the result of domestic violence rather than the minor family squabble that I implied above. Everyone agrees, however, that she should not have paid with her life.
Sources: ColorofChange.org, countercurrentnews.com, CBSnews.com.