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Pharmacological Violence and Harmful Mental Health Services Inside a California Juvenile Detention Center

Mon, August 13, 10:30 to 11:30am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: Level 100, 113A


Recently scholars have begun to investigate how pharmaceutical use and abuse contribute to the future criminal behavior and the eventual incarceration of young people. However, less work describe has pharmacological drugs are administered to youth once they are incarcerated. Or how this process negatively influences the experiences of young women behind bars. In this article we show how one juvenile detention center in southern California forced the use of antipsychotic medication in order to pacify, treat, and control young incarcerated women. We argue that this treatment contributes to a new form of previously undescribed mistreatment we call pharmacological violence. Building on empirical work on pharmaceutical abuse and theoretical work on legal violence we describe this new type dynamic and how it influences a group of 28 incarcerated young Latinas. Our paper demonstrates how these young women experience the injurious nature of laws, like Washington v. Harper, while in confinement, how young women’s drug prescription constitutes structural and symbolic violence while in confinement and how this practice produces immediate and long-term social suffering that makes it difficult for young women to exit the criminal justice system.


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