March 31st, 2015
Senator Loni Hancock, Chair
Senate Public Safety Committee
Room 2031, State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Via FAX: (916) 445-4688
On behalf of United Against Police Terror San Diego Uaptsd.org, I am writing in strong support for SB 124 (Leno), a bill that would limit the harmful practice of solitary confinement against youth in the juvenile justice system. UAPTSD works for systemic change in law enforcement agencies and advocating for victims of excessive force or misconduct by police or prison officials.
SB 124 seeks to remedy current deficiencies in law regarding the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities and to curb its overuse and abuse. This bill is in keeping with efforts in several other states to ban or limit the use of solitary confinement—a practice widely defined throughout the U.S. and internationally as torture due to the severe impacts on the mental and physical health of those who are confined.
Specifically, SB 124, would bring these urgently needed reforms:
· Define solitary confinement as the placement of a person in a locked room or cell alone with minimal or no contact with persons other than guards, correctional staff, and attorneys. It does not include confinement for brief periods of confinement necessary for required institutional operations.
· Provide that solitary confinement shall only be used when a young person poses an immediate and substantial risk of harm to others or the security of the facility, and when all other less restrictive options have been attempted and exhausted.
· Provide that a youth shall only be held in solitary confinement for the minimum time necessary to address the safety risk, not to exceed four hours.
· Empower existing county juvenile justice commissions to report on the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities.
In addition to not have access to programming and education services and worsening recidivism rates, People in solitary confinement are also more likely to be subjected to excessive force and abuses of power. In the 2014 ACLU report ” The Dangerous Overuse of Solitary Confinement in the United States, ” correctional officers often misuse physical restraints, chemical agents, and stun guns, particularly when extracting prisoners from their cells. The fact that the solitary confinement cells are isolated from the general population prisoners makes it more difficult to detect abuse. Solitary confinement itself damages mental health and increases risk for suicide. Nationally, over half of the youth who committed suicide while in a correctional facility were in solitary confinement at the time and 62% had a history of being placed in solitary confinement.
Cat Mendonca, Dir. of Communications
United Against Police Terror San Diego Uaptsd.org