Solitary Confinement Impedes Rehabilitation, ACLU Testifies
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2013
Baylor Johnson, ACLU of Florida, 786-363-2737, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Rosenthal, ACLU national, 212-549-2582 or 212-549-2666, email@example.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Testifying at a State Senate hearing today on a bill that would limit solitary confinement for teenagers and young adults in Florida’s jails and prisons, a national expert on the issue said that isolating juveniles causes physical and psychological damage that impedes their rehabilitation.
“Enactment of SB 812 would be a landmark achievement protecting incarcerated Florida youth from practices that traumatize them,” Ian Kysel of the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. “It would make Florida the first state in the union to reduce this costly and counterproductive practice and make the state a leader in this area of criminal justice reform.”
The Youth in Solitary Confinement Reduction Act, sponsored by committee member Sen. Audrey Gibson, limits isolation over 20 hours a day for prisoners under 18 years old.
“Certain forms of segregation and isolation may be a valid tool for correctional use. Yet any use must be strictly monitored and used for the shortest period of time. Limiting the use of solitary confinement will protect the youngest and most vulnerable prisoners, and allow them to rehabilitate effectively,” said Kysel. “This keeps us all safer when they return to our communities.”
Kysel is the author of “Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States,” a 2012 study of the usage, psychological repercussions, and counter-rehabilitative impact of solitary confinement on young people. The report focused on Florida, which holds more young people in its Department of Corrections than any other state in the union.
The panel also heard testimony from the mother of a young man who has spent 5 months of his 20-month prison sentence in solitary confinement for infractions, many of which were unrelated to safety and security.
Angelia Reddick told the Senators that two years ago, when her son was 17, Tobias “made a terrible mistake and committed a crime. It was his first offense.”
“Tobias took responsibility for what he did and pled guilty,” she said. “He is serving his sentence and trying his best to use the time wisely to become a productive member of our family and our community when he is released.”
But, she said, “When he is in solitary, he does not spend a single moment outdoors and has no contact with another person. He is not allowed out of his cell at all for exercise. He just sits, alone, for 24 hours a day, each day, for a month at a time. The isolation and inactivity is crushing his spirit and preventing him from his path towards rehabilitation.”
In Florida, prosecutors, not judges, have discretion to charge children as adults. Once a child is convicted of an adult crime, any new charges must be brought as adult charges, no matter how minor the charge. Florida law mandates that youths charged in adult criminal courts must be held in adult jails. After conviction, youths in Florida are held in Department of Corrections facilities – in both mainline prisons and youthful offender facilities.
Kysel said that nationally, more than 95,000 young people under age 18 were held in adult jails and prisons in each of the last five years.
For more on the ACLU’s work on solitary confinement, go to: http://www.aclu.org/we-can-stop-solitary
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