CA Bill to Limit Solitary Confinement in Local & State Juvenile Facilities Passes Senate Floor 24-14

Historic SB 61 marks California as national leader in rethinking juvenile justice policies to maximize public safety

SACRAMENTO, CA -- Family members of youth who have languished in California's juvenile prisons released a collective sigh of relief as a historic bill made its way out of the Senate floor in a decisive 24-14 vote today.

Contact California Justice Director
Jennifer Kim (626) 215-6269

SB 61, which was authored by Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco, would limit and discourage the use of solitary confinement in local and state juvenile facilities.  The bill heads to the Assembly in the coming weeks.

The bill was met with staunch opposition in 2012 when it was first introduced, a demoralizing loss for incarcerated youth and their families.  Today’s vote represents a significant political and moral shift.

Senator Yee has persisted this second year to curb a practice that the rest of the world considers torture, stating, "Solitary confinement is a damaging and destructive practice that reinforces dangerous and anti-social behavior.  SB 61 is a common sense step towards a more effective juvenile justice system." 

Co-sponsored by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Youth Justice Coalition, and the California Public Defenders Association, SB 61 will provide a uniform definition of solitary confinement, prohibit its use for punitive reasons, require data collection, and encourage the inclusion of family members on local juvenile justice commissions to help monitor such practices. 

"Keeping anyone in an isolated environment causes emotional damage to the youth and their loved ones.  I wonder if the guards and elected leaders feel this kind of treatment benefits anyone.  Would they do this to their own children?" said Alex Polo, a Books Not Bars Family Member.

Research has shown the traumatic toll and mental health breakdown caused by solitary confinement.  The United Nations has widely condemned and prohibited the practice.  Several other states have made strides in preventing the use of solitary confinement for punishment. 

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights remains committed to transforming the justice system for our most vulnerable children.  SB 61 will take us one step closer.