Petition Launched by Youth inside Ventura Youth Prison Highlights Unlivable Conditions

TOILETS BROKEN, SEWAGE, CHEMICAL AGENTS ALL DOCUMENTED IN YOUTH-LED PETITION TO VENTURA YOUTH PRISON

For Immediate Release: 2/2/2012
Contact: Abel Habtegeorgis
Media Relations Manager
(510) 428-3939 x232
abel@ellabakercenter.org

(Camarillo, CA) -Youth inside one of California’s most notorious youth prisons have launched a petition in protest of unlivable conditions at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, part of the notorious Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).  With the help of Ella Baker Center staff, youth are courageously organizing to demand more livable conditions in the youth prison. This news comes on the heels of Gov. Brown’s proposal to close DJJ, released as part of his budget plan earlier this year.

“As youth in the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, we aren't asking for special treatment,” said Silvo. “We only seek to have our basic needs be met.  We're going public knowing we'll face retaliation unless enough people sign our petition to show prison officials that the public hasn't forgotten about us.”

Lino, a young man confined in DJJ, organized his fellow youth prisoners to sign the petition. He  shares stories of filthy living conditions, health hazards, and solitary confinement.  The petition has gotten over 10,000 signatures on change.org.  

“This system spends over $200,000 per youth in one year, yet it can’t bother to unclog the toilets?  Lino and the youth who created and signed this petition took a stand at great personal risk.” said Jakada Imani, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, “The daily exposure to filth is unacceptable. It’s yet another example of how the DJJ is broken and can’t be fixed.”

Ella Baker Center staff have requested a meeting with youth prison officials and two of the youth behind the petition, but to date officials refuse to allow the youth to be present in discussions of the prison living conditions.  

Some of the sub-standard conditions highlighted in the petition include:

  • Water fountains that do not drain and hold stagnant pools of dirty water. 
  • Toilets that are broken, leaking, or frequently overflowing. 
  • Filthy showers and bathrooms in living units. 
  • Lack of clean and fitting clothing for youth. 
  • Air vents that smell of sewage. 
  • Walls and floors stained with the chemical agents used in disciplinary measures.
  • Overuse of solitary confinement as a disciplinary tactic

Link to petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/improve-conditions-at-ventura-youth-correctional-facility

*Journalists interested in setting up an interview with Lino Silvo should use the contact details at the top of the page.

"Thousands of California residents have joined Lino's campaign and many more are sure to join," said Change.org Senior Organizer for Criminal Justice Jonathan Perri. "Change.org is about empowering people to create meaningful change and it has been incredible to watch support for cleaning up the DJJ grow so rapidly with Lino's petition." 

The Ella Baker Center will continue monitoring youths’ safety in the youth prisons through our families network and community of youth we advocate with as well fighting for ultimate closure of California’s notorious Youth Prison System.

Live signature totals from Lino Silvo’s campaign:
http://www.change.org/petitions/improve-conditions-at-ventura-youth-correctional-facility

*Journalists interested in contacting DJJ public relations staff should try:
Ventura Youth Prison Superintendent Victor Almager
(209) 461-6268, victor.almager@cdcr.ca.gov

###

The award-winning Ella Baker Center is named for an unsung hero of the civil rights movement who inspired and guided emerging leaders. We build on her legacy by giving people opportunities and skills to work together to strengthen our communities so that all of us can thrive.