Over the last several months, Families for Books Not Bars members have shared horror stories about extreme isolation in California’s youth prison system. Now, a state audit has confirmed what we’ve been hearing: the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has routinely locked young people in their cells for 23 or more hours per day.
In 2004, the court required that the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) stop isolating youth in their cells. The DJJ grudgingly set a policy requiring that youth remain in their cells for no more than 21 hours a day. Yet, years later, they can’t even follow their own, insufficient policies. We have documents showing hundreds of cases where youth were isolated in their cells for up to 23 and even 24 hours a day, for weeks at a time. In one case, a youth was let out of his cell for only one hour over a period of 10 days.
Solitary confinement amounts to torture. It is has been shown to cause deep, long-term psychological problems in adults, and makes it even harder to reintegrate into society. This is even more true for youth and the DJJ knows this.
Demand that Secretary Cate, the head of California’s prison system, immediately guarantee youth a minimum of 8 hours outside their cells, even if the youth is in a restrictive program. Our youth and their families cannot wait!