SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today in Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley), who co-author of the landmark Schiff-Cárdenas Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act of 2000 in California, introduced the “Protecting Youth from Solitary Confinement Act,” to reform the incarceration and confinement of juveniles in the United States.
The Protecting Youth from Solitary Confinement Act, H.R. 2823, addresses a critical oversight in jails where juveniles are kept. This legislation bans solitary confinement for youth in federal juvenile facilities, and requires an annual report to Congress on the rate at which juveniles are still subject to solitary confinement.
Cárdenas first introduced the Protecting Youth from Solitary Confinement Act in the 113th Congress. On June 2, 2015, the California State Senate passed SB 124 to limit the use of solitary confinement in State and Local juvenile retention centers in California. While this legislation does not go as far as banning solitary confinement, Cárdenas is hopeful it will be approved by the California Assembly and signed by Governor Brown.
“The pain and suffering experienced as a result of solitary confinement can violate the standards of international and U.S. Constitutional law,” said Cárdenas. “It is unacceptable that we put our children at risk of sustaining the massive emotional, psychological and physical damage that can be created by solitary confinement.”
Every year, thousands of American children are sent to prison where they are at risk of solitary confinement.
Solitary confinement entails the physical and social isolation of a human being for 22 to 24 hours a day, sometimes for an indefinite period of time.
Youth are particularly vulnerable to the potential harms caused by solitary confinement because they are developmentally at a formative stage in their lives. Too often, the mental health of youth subjected to solitary confinement deteriorates to the point of self-harm or suicide.
“This is a commonsense, straight-forward piece of legislation that should not be controversial,” said Cárdenas. “We should not be putting kids in solitary confinement, potentially ruining any chance they have at a normal life. Our children are the future of this nation. Juvenile justice reform means protecting and growing their potential, not condemning them to a life destroyed by their own government.”