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Brady’s Story: How a “Child in Need of Supervision” Dies in Juvenile Detention

Posted in 2017, Voices Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Brady’s Story: How a “Child in Need of Supervision” Dies in Juvenile Detention

Why the U.S. Senate Needs to Reauthorize the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act

By Jeree Thomas, Esq. and Dawn Folkens, mother of Brady Alan Folkens

“Today I woke up feeling like complete [crap]. It has only gotten worse so far. I anticipate feeling bad tomorrow as well. But hopefully I’ll be better by Saturday when my mom comes to visit.” – Brady Folkens, December 19th- Brady’s final journal entry.

How does a typical teenager go from skipping school to dying in a hospital while incarcerated at a state juvenile justice facility?  According to Dawn Folkens, mother of Brady Folkens, it can happen in a matter of a few nightmarish months.  One day her son’s grades are slipping and he is missing school and the next he is identified as a “child in need of supervision” and taken to a juvenile facility seven hours from his family.

Brady was a 17 year-old teenager who was full of life. Brady was just a typical teenage boy whose dreams got cut short. His lack of enthusiasm for summer school led him into a situation that both he and myself were powerless to fight. I had a difficult time getting Brady motivated to attend summer school, school officials threatened me with truancy charges. I was a single mom asking for help, the school’s answer was to call the police. The state steps in and incarcerates Brady.  –Dawn Folkens

In South Dakota, where Brady Folkens lived, children in need of supervision (CHINS) also known as status offenders are children and youth generally under the age of 18 who come into contact with the justice system for offenses that are only illegal because of their status as minors.  Offenses like truancy from school, running away, or underage smoking or drinking are status offenses. 

The detention of status offenders was one of the first issues addressed by Congress in the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. (JJDPA). One of the four core protections of the federal law is the deinstitutionalization of status offenders, which means the removal of these youth from detention centers and jails. Under the federal law, states that participate in the JJDPA program are supposed to develop state plans and track data related to limiting or removing altogether status offender from detention facilities. 

On May 23, 2017, the U.S. House passed HR 1809, to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act which has not been reauthorized since November 2002.   HR 1809 is now in the Senate where prior iterations of the bill have been held up by legislators who disagree over whether the law should phase out the “valid court order exception” which allows states not to be financially penalized under the JJDPA if judges put status offenders in detention when they violate a valid court order.  For youth like Brady, once there is a CHINS petition put in place, a violation and even a minor infraction could result in detention.

Because of the CHINS petition, the state of South Dakota had become a watchdog over Brady. They required random urine drug tests, and Brady failed. Such a failure in an adult can result in a penalty of job loss or benefits lost. It does not result in incarceration unless there is a crime involved, such as possession or distribution. For my 17-year old son, unfortunately, an officer and the school took great issue with another serious supposed infraction by Brady:  He wore his hat backwards at school.  The backwards hat was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and the juvenile court came down hard on him. Apparently, someone in the system associated backwards hats with gang activity… - Dawn

There are a number of notable negative effects associated with incarcerating youth, which is why it should always be a final resort and never occur over a minor infraction.  This year, the American Academy of Pediatrics published research showing that youth incarceration was independently associated with “worse physical and mental health later in adulthood.”  Youth incarceration is also associated with a two to three times higher rate of suicide than youth in the general population, and a higher rate of sexual victimization than the general population. For Dawn Folkens, the incarceration of her 17-year old for a status offense led to his death.

Though Brady was never arrested, he was sentenced to go to STAR Academy Boot Camp – a juvenile corrections facility that was more than a 7-hour drive away from our home. – Dawn.

While Brady Folkens was incarcerated in STARS Academy from October 23rd to December 21st he became terminally ill.  South Dakota officials have stated that his cause of death was associated with an infection caused by parvovirus B19.   However, Dawn Folkens has consulted with a number of experts who dispute this claim.  Dr. Lars Aanning believes that glaring errors in the pathologist’s work up almost completely rules out this virus as the cause of Brady’s death.   Instead, Dawn and the medical experts she has consulted with believe it was Brady’s hypersensitivity to minocycline, a drug given to him while he was at the juvenile facility that resulted in his cardiac collapse and death.  

[Brady] was prescribed amoxicillin and cefuoxime. His acne got worse, and he was prescribed the antibiotic minocycline on December 5, at a dose reportedly higher than the normal dosage for a 126 pound teenager. Antibiotics like amoxicillin and minocycline can potentially cause liver toxicity. STAR Academy was not authorized to prescribe drugs without parental permission. They also neglected to inform me about the drugs. No one ever asked me if Brady had any drug allergies or sensitivities. Had they asked, I would have informed them of a previously documented reaction to tetracycline, in which he began being jaundiced, a sign of liver toxicity. When that happened, the tetracycline was immediately discontinued. Minocycline is in the tetracycline family. Brady showed signs that his body was again reacting to the minocycline, but those signs were apparently missed by the staff at the boot camp. -Dawn

Dawn and the medical professionals she consulted with believe that had Brady not be incarcerated or at the very least, had they consulted with Dawn or his health records before prescribing Brady medication, he would still be alive today.  Brady’s story is tragic.  While the effects of his incarceration had immediate negative consequences, we know that for many youth like Brady, there will be long-term consequences that influence their health, education, employment, and housing. 

The U.S. Senate has an opportunity to protect youth like Brady by passing the reauthorized Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. To encourage your Senator to do so visit Act 4 Juvenile Justice.   

Your action can impact youth and families across the country, and even save a life. 

 My heart needs to hear that my son’s life DID matter! - Dawn