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Federal and State Juvenile Solitary Confinement Bills

Recently, legislation to reform the incarceration of juveniles has been making its way through both the state and the federal legislatures. A bill has passed the California State Senate that would limit the use of solitary confinement for youths incarcerated in state and local juvenile facilities. Additionally, the Protecting Youth from Solitary Confinement Act, which would ban the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal juvenile centers, has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Solitary Confinement and Juveniles

Solitary confinement is defined as physically and socially isolating someone for 22–24 hours per day, often indefinitely. Juveniles are particularly susceptible to emotional, psychological, and physical harms created by solitary confinement. Because they are at a formative developmental stage, solitary confinement often causes their mental health to deteriorate, and they may even become suicidal. Being alone often exacerbates the very problems for which they were sent to solitary confinement in the first place.

State

Senate Bill 124, sponsored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, passed the state Senate on June 2. The bills would limit the use of solitary confinement in state and local juvenile facilities in California. It would only allow the use of solitary confinement in a juvenile correctional facility when an inmate poses a substantial and immediate risk of harm to others or a threat to the facility’s security.

The bill also provides that a juvenile may only be held in solitary confinement for the minimum time needed to address the safety risk. It establishes reporting requirements, and prohibits the use of solitary confinement on youths with serious mental health problems. It also requires staff to send youths to mental health treatment facilities, instead of to solitary confinement.

Proponents hope that the bill will be passed by the California Assembly and signed into law by the summer’s end.

Federal

U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-San Fernando Valley, introduced a bill in Washington on June 18, to protect juveniles from solitary confinement. The Protecting Youth from Solitary Confinement Act would reform juvenile incarceration in federal prisons in the United States by eliminating solitary confinement altogether.

H.R.2823 forbids the solitary confinement for any reason of youth incarcerated in federal juvenile facilities. It also requires an annual report to Congress on the rate of juveniles still in solitary confinement.

A juvenile criminal record can have lifelong repercussions, both during the period of incarceration or probation, and after the sentence is complete. If your child has been charged with a criminal offense, it is essential to retain the services of a dedicated attorney to ensure that his or her best interests are well-represented. Please contact dedicated San Jose criminal defense attorney Wesley J. Schroeder today to schedule your initial consultation.