State To Close Norwalk Youth Prison

ELLA BAKER CENTER APPLAUDS CLOSURE OF CALIFORNIA YOUTH PRISON

Norwalk Becomes Fifth Prison to Close in 7 Years

For Immediate Release: 6/13, 2011
Contact: Abel Habtegeorgis
Media Relations Manager
(510) 428-3939 x232
abel@ellabakercenter.org

NOTE: Ella Baker Center staff and members of our Families for Books Not Bars Network available for interviews

Oakland, CA- The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights celebrated a major victory today, learning that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), will close one of two facilities for juvenile offenders in Southern California by early next year. The Southern Youth Reception Center and Clinic in Norwalk (Los Angeles County) is scheduled to close by January 2012. With new information of abusive solitary confinement and violence rampant inside the walls of California’s youth prisons, Norwalk’s closure is a monumental achievement in our ongoing campaign to shut down California’s dangerous, expensive, and ineffective youth prisons.

Lina Roldan, a member of Families for Books Not Bars, is the mother of a youth who endured physical and emotional violence resulting in a suicide attempt while incarcerated at Norwalk. She shared, “My husband and I were very happy to hear this great news because Norwalk truly scared and traumatized my son. We need to have our children safe, not seeing more crime, even in DJJ. Where in the Constitution does it say that youth have to suffer violence and solitary confinement?  I hope all of the DJJ prisons close down.”

Currently, California spends at least $200,000 per year for each youth in a DJJ facility such as Norwalk. Concern over this ineffective and expensive system, as well as years of Books Not Bars' work to expose abuses inside the prisons, have made counties reluctant to send youth to DJJ's notorious youth prisons.

“Though closing Norwalk will not erase all the painful memories of what youth and families have endured there, it represents a step away from an expensive, failed system,” reflected Owen Li, of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “Each youth prison that closes clears the way for solutions that actually increase public safety and strengthen youth and our communities.”

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has earned national acclaim for its work advocating for the closure of California youth prisons since 2004. Norwalk is the fifth prison to close during the Books Not Bars campaign, leaving only three DJJ facilities to remain.
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