The use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities in the state of California may be coming to an end.
Recent reforms of practices in juvenile detention facilities represent a growing consensus that the use of solitary confinement is harmful for children, said California Democratic State Sen. Mark Leno, who is sponsoring a bill that severely limits the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities.
Leno’s bill models on a class action settlement against Contra Costa County, for locking young children with disabilities in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day.
“Cici,” the mother of a named plaintiff who spent three weeks in solitary confinement, said, “Juvenile Hall has taken a kid who’s made a mistake and completely tried to take (away) all of his hopes and dreams.”
Her son was hospitalized for three weeks for a mental breakdown after being found smearing feces on the walls, and has since been sent back to Juvenile Hall.
“Even though by law juvenile halls in California exist solely for the purpose of rehabilitation, not punishment, children with disabilities at the Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall are being subjected to egregious and inhumane maximum security-like prison conditions,” said Public Counsel Education Rights Director Laura Faer, co-counsel on the lawsuit. “They are routinely locked for days and weeks at a time in cells that have barely enough room for a bed and only a narrow window the width of a hand.”
“Rehabilitation means going to school, getting help for your mental health or learning disability,” Faer said. “It means coming out better prepared for life than when you went in.”
Solitary confinement points:
Contra Costa Probation Department agreed to isolate youth for a maximum of four hours and only when a youth’s behavior poses an immediate safety risk to other youth or staff at facilities – terms that are included in Senate Bill 1143.
In January, President Obama banned the use of solitary confinement in federal facilities.
In May, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to restrict drastically the use of solitary confinement for youth in its juvenile detention facilities. (L.A. County oversees the largest juvenile justice system in the nation.)
Senate Bill 1143 is supported by the Chief Probation Officers of California, which has in the past fought against bills restricting the use of solitary confinement.
The American Correctional Association supports a national moratorium on solitary confinement for kids.
Visit www.stopsolitaryforkids.org or #stopsolitaryforkids for more information.