For those whose vision is particularly bad—about 15% of the youth—Dr. Harrie orders them glasses of a specific power, but it gets difficult because many times the teen has already been transferred out of the detention center by the time he returns the following week.
While a majority of the teenagers wear the glasses, a few of them refuse to do so, despite their refractive errors. He also finds that some of them (about a tenth) leave the glasses behind when they transfer out of the detention center.
While contacts may be a better option for those individuals resistant to the idea of wearing glasses, he said contact lenses can create more issues in terms of hygiene and eye infections given the transiency of their situation. Still, he tries to connect them with resources for lenses after they are transferred.
Over the course of years handing out glasses, Dr. Harrie started to wonder if there was a correlation between poor vision and youth delinquency. He collected research and published his findings in Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal (Child Adolesc Soc Work Jâ¨DOI 10.1007/s10560-015-0422-4).
When compared with adolescents in junior high school, Dr. Harrie found that those in the detention center were about two times as likely to have refractive errors.
He proposed that the main factors for this frequency of vision problems may be the teenagers’ social situations, with often weak, if any, family ties and a lack of follow up and access to healthcare. Even if Medicaid would pay for them, Dr. Harrie said, their lives are often not stable enough to have access to it and they can easily get “lost in the cracks.”
All images are courtesy of Roger Harrie, MD