24 Hour Lock-up of Youth Rampant in California Youth Prisons

For Immediate Release: 6/1, 2011
Contact: Abel Habtegeorgis
Media Relations Manager
(510) 428-3939 x232

(Oakland,CA) Advocates at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights urge the state Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) youth prisons to immediately stop extensive isolation of youth. A recent motion filed by the Prison Law Office supports the assertions made by the Ella Baker Center that the DJJ locks up youth in extreme isolation (PDF Download). According to the motion, DJJ locked youth in their cells for more than 21 hours a day in more than 249 incidents over a 14 week period--in some instances, youth were locked up for 24 hours straight for several days at a time.

More than a dozen members of Books Not Bars (a campaign of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights) have children who have spent 23+ hours a day locked up in cold cells with little human contact and zero programming.

“The DJJ abuses my son by keeping him in solitary confinement. The last time I saw him, he had bruises on his face and he couldn’t hold a conversation with me. How could they do this to our children?” said Maria Sanchaz, whose son is currently locked up in Ventura youth prison.

Another violation substantiated in this report is the failure to provide youth with the minimum education required every day. Further, due to high levels of institutional violence, medical appointments are canceled and never rescheduled. After seven years of purported reforms and billions of dollars, the DJJ has not changed.

“We have distraught mothers calling us, terrified that their children won’t survive 24-hour isolation,” said Sumayyah Waheed of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “This illegal practice must end today. Extensive isolation amounts to torture, and is particularly damaging to youth. Our young people can’t afford one more day in these abusive conditions. This is just further proof that the California youth prison system is broken and can’t be fixed.”