End Child Solitary Confinement in New York
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New York is one of two states that will continue to sentence youth under the age of 18 as adults until at least late 2018. Many of those children will end up in adult prisons. Because of a federal mandate under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, New York recently created separate correctional facilities for inmates under 18 years of age. Sadly, in the newly reconfigured prisons for teenagers, DOCCS continues its inhumane and destructive practice of confining young people in solitary confinement as punishment for misbehavior, including minor rule violations
Solitary confinement is not only ineffective for youth, but it is profoundly damaging. Solitary confinement can cause mental, emotional, and physical harm, including a significant risk of self- injury. More than half of all suicides in juvenile facilities occur while young people are held in isolation. Recently a 17-year-old with a suicide attempt serious enough to warrant his transfer from prison to a secure mental hospital was returned to prison to face disciplinary charges for his suicide attempt prior to completing his treatment. Rather than provide this young man with intensive counseling and supportive services, he was sent straight to solitary pending the outcome of his disciplinary hearing.
Teenagers need activity and healthy engagement with peers and adults, not forced isolation and sensory deprivation in lock-down cells for hours, days, weeks or months on end. Adolescents in DOCCS custody have different behavioral and developmental needs than adults. At a time when their brains, bodies and social and intellectual skills are rapidly developing, they should not be isolated and confined to small spaces. Solitary confinement can exacerbate the mental illness and post-traumatic stress responses suffered by many youth in DOCCS custody and prevent them from receiving education, therapy, and other services. This abusive practice must end.
Most parents would consider it abusive if a neighbor locked their own children in a small, barren room for hours or days, especially if that child suffered from mental illness. Children who unfortunately touch the justice system are no more deserving of abusive practices in DOCCS custody. END SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR KIDS under 21 now.
Go to www.UnlockOurKids.com on your mobile phones to be transported into a 360 immersive virtual solitary cell and see how long you can last. Once you try the experience, the site will offer you a tweet to share directly at the Governor. Join us in demanding change and spreading the word!
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