Solitary Confinement: An Indefensible Act of Torture
Richard Ross, http://www.richardross.net/
In his poem, "The Wasteland," T. S. Eliot called April the "cruelest month." For youth locked up in California's juvenile facilities, every month can be the cruelest month. Solitary confinement, widely condemned as torture, runs rampant in these facilities where youth are left to languish for hours in their cells with little to no access to education and programming. Solitary confinement has no rehabilitative value, causes irreparable trauma, worsens behavioral issues, and needs to stop now.
Books Not Bars and the Youth Justice Coalition are co-sponsoring SB 1363 to place limits and standards on the use of this dangerous practice. Introduced by Senator Leland Yee, this bill aims to restrict the use of solitary confinement to the most extreme cases, for the shortest time possible. Yesterday, Books Not Bars and family members testified in front of the Senate Public Safety Committee, urging members to vote for this important bill.
I had the honor of testifying with one of our family members, Lina Roldan. As I sat there, stating our policy arguments about why this bill is necessary, I could feel her trembling next to me, trying to hold back her tears. As she shared her story, her tears fell as she recounted the number of times her son attempted suicide. I squeezed back my own tears and hoped that her son’s experience would prove the urgency of this bill to our elected leaders.
Unfortunately, some of our leaders did not rise to the occasion. They chose not to prioritize the safety and welfare of our children and instead bowed down to political pressures and special interest groups (aka Prison Guards). I felt betrayed and angry. We were one vote short of passing.
Just ask yourself this. If your child is suicidal, would you lock her up in an isolated cell? If your child is acting out, would you lock her up in an isolated cell and ignore her until she magically worked out her behavioral issues by herself? If a parent did this to her child in her own home, Child Protective Services would remove the child and charge the parent with child endangerment. So why does our state allow our juvenile facilities to engage in this dangerous practice?
My feelings of anger and disappointment have fueled me to action. We have one more chance to get out of committee if Senator Curren Price or Senator Ron Calderon will change their abstention to a “YES” vote next Tuesday, April 24. Join me and call Senator Price and Senator Calderon to stand up for youth.
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