Imagine learning that your neighbor was keeping their child locked up in their room for 23 hours a day for days on end. Imagine that this child was all alone, with no one to talk to and nothing to keep her mind, body and soul busy.
You would undoubtedly think that was child abuse and immediately call the authorities. Yet something similar is happening in California’s juvenile facilities at this very moment. Young people under the age of 18 are kept in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours at a time.
Though psychological effects of isolation are harmful for anyone regardless of age, the research has shown that solitary confinement is especially harmful to youth because their brains are still developing.
Solitary confinement does nothing to rehabilitate youth. Rather it damages their mental health and makes it more likely that they’ll commit new crimes. Also, suicide is a high risk, too. Nationally, over half of the youth who committed suicide while at a correctional facility were in solitary confinement at the time and 62 percent of them had a history of being placed in solitary confinement.
SB 61 (Yee) sets standards for and limits the use of solitary confinement at state and county juvenile correctional facilities. The bill specifies that young people can be held in solitary confinement only if certain guidelines are met. For example, clinical staff would need to evaluate the young person within one hour of placement and every four hours thereafter. Also, an individualized suicide crisis intervention plan would need to be created before subjecting a minor to confinement. And if the risk of suicide is not resolved within the first 24 hours, the young person would need to be moved to an offsite hospital or mental facility.
Because of SB 61, youth would no longer remain in solitary confinement for extended periods and would be released as soon as the risk of immediate harm has passed. SB 61 would also facilitate transparency in the use of juvenile solitary confinement by requiring that data be collected noting who was confined, why and for how long as well as the race, gender, and mental health conditions of the confined youth.
Take action now to support SB 61 — Limiting Solitary Confinement in Juvenile Facilities