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Across the United States, we lock up some 70,000 young people in solitary confinement every year, on average for 22 hours a day. Juvenile facilities across the country have locked children in solitary confinement with little public oversight, knowledge, or legal limits. This treatment undermines healthy child development and, ultimately, the safety of facilities and the public.
Solitary confinement creates unsafe facilities and further traumatizes already vulnerable youth. In fact, 75% to 93% of youth in the juvenile justice system have experienced trauma (compared to the national average of 35%); solitary confinement can exacerbate the symptoms of trauma. Nationally, over half of the youth who committed suicide while in a correctional facility were in solitary confinement at the time.
The United Nations has called for an absolute ban on solitary confinement for youth in all countries.
California now has an opportunity to become a leader among states and through its 58 counties, to create a new chapter in juvenile justice history — away from decades of lawsuits and Department of Justice monitoring.
SB 1143, authored by Senator Leno and co-sponsored by Children’s Defense Fund-California, drastically curbs the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities and requires public accountability of counties and the state by requiring documentation and reporting when it is used.