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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
For More Information Contact:
Hanif Houston, Children’s Defense Fund – California, (213) 201-0833, firstname.lastname@example.org Kim McGill, Youth Justice Coalition, (323) 327-1259, email@example.com
Los Angeles, CA - During the evening of Tuesday, May 26th, the LA County Board of Supervisors passed a motion with consent to support state legislation that would limit the use of solitary confinement in juvenile halls and camps.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl took the lead on calling on the Board to support SB124. "I strongly support Senator Leno’s bill limiting the use of seclusion in juvenile facilities and authorizing solitary confinement only under very limited conditions. It is in sync with a number of fundamental changes we are undertaking in LA County to achieve safety through relationship-building, trauma informed care, and smaller therapeutic settings. I am proud to be part of this rehabilitative movement working to change our treatment of incarcerated youth.”
Co-sponsored by Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Youth Justice Coalition, the Children’s Defense Fund – California, and the CA Public Defender’s Association, SB 124, authored by Senator Mark Leno, would drastically limit the harmful practice of solitary confinement (also known as seclusion and isolation) of youth in juvenile facilities. This includes all juvenile halls, probation camps and ranches and the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice youth prison system. The use of solitary confinement would not used for punishment, but only if the youth poses a serious and imminent threat to themselves or others, that isolation be used only after all other interventions have been exhausted, and that the practice be limited to 4 hours.
This comes at the heels of Contra Costa County’s groundbreaking settlement reached by Public Counsel and Disability Rights Advocate, which would similarly end the punitive, prolonged isolation of youth in their facilities. Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest juvenile justice system, has taken this unique opportunity to become a leader in important juvenile justice reforms. After a series of reforms and the ending of the US Department of Justice monitoring, Los Angeles County has made strides in shifting away from custody and control to treatment and healing. Already the County is embarking on building a new juvenile facility without the use of solitary confinement called the LA Model. The passing of Senate Bill 124 would be another important step in LA County’s transformation as a county and support similar progress across the state.
Francisco Martinez, a youth leader with the Youth Justice Coalition to pass SB 124 experienced solitary confinement at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, CA. “Experiencing solitary confinement as a young teen was horrible - like an animal in a cage. The conditions were a small, dirty concrete room. The walls were covered in dirt and dried up spit, smeared food, tagging on the walls and on the bars of the bed, and covering the windows. The mattress was so ripped up it felt as if I was laying on steel bars. We were kept in our boxers with a tee shirt and socks, and a thin blanket. The cold from the air conditioning blowing 24-7 was freezing torture, but was even worse for me, because I have asthma. I had shortness of breath when I woke up until I went to sleep. When I had an asthma attack I waited from morning until night to go to the medical unit. I was shaking and never able to get a good night’s sleep.”
“Senate Bill 124 is a powerful example of what real public safety and youth development looks like,” said Kim McGill an organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition who experienced solitary confinement as both a youth and an adult. “California uses harsh, and often long-term solitary confinement in both its youth and adult institutions. These conditions – while inhumane and debilitating to a person’s physical, emotional and mental well-being – are widespread, putting California out of touch with most of the world and nation that has implemented human rights standards and eliminated the use of solitary confinement.”
“The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has recognized the imperative of ending harmful practices inside our juvenile justice system. Their full support for Senator Leno’s Senate Bill 124 moves the state one step closer to ending the use of solitary confinement for youth in California,” said Alex Johnson, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California. “We applaud L.A. County’s leadership in joining with Senator Mark Leno to ensure that youth in L.A. County and across the state receive the healing and rehabilitation they need to succeed rather than be re-traumatized.”
“I applaud Los Angeles County for taking a leadership role in pushing for common sense limitations on the practice of solitary confinement in juvenile detention facilities, which is exactly what SB 124 will accomplish statewide,” said Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. “No county or state facility should deliberately deprive incarcerated young people of human contact, education, exercise and fresh air for extended periods of time. This type of discipline is inhumane and can have devastating psychological effects for troubled youth who are already vulnerable to depression and suicide.”
Children’s Defense Fund-California is the California office of the Children’s Defense Fund, a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for over 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. www.cdfca.org