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New Law Ends Long-Term Isolation of Youth in State Juvenile Facilities




Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation this week limiting the use of room confinement of youth in California’s juvenile facilities.


The landmark bill was authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and championed by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC), and youth, faith and human rights advocates. 


“Young people who receive treatment instead of prolonged isolation have a better chance of becoming productive members of society,” said Senator Mark Leno. “The passage of this bill ensures that youth get the educational and rehabilitative opportunities they need to come home with the best chance of success in life.”


The bill’s success in passing both the Senate and Assembly with strong bi-partisan support and reaching the Governor’s desk was the result of partnership between the association representing county probation chiefs and juvenile justice advocates who, after years of disagreement, achieved consensus to create safer facilities for youth and facility staff throughout the state.


“This bill has been years in the making, and is a huge victory for all of the young people locked up in California and their families,” said Jennifer Kim, Director of Programs at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “By signing this bill into law, Governor Brown has demonstrated his commitment to protecting the human rights and dignity of young people, who are some of the most vulnerable people behind bars.”


The legislation builds on growing national momentum to limit the long-term isolation of youth. By enacting this bill, California has established model standards to limit the use of room confinement and can lead states across the country to prioritize the health, safety, and rehabilitation of youth in detention.


“This is an important day for juvenile justice in California,” said Chief Mark Bonini, President of the Chief Probation Officers of California. “This bill focuses on what probation departments throughout the state hold as critically important – a focus on evidence-based practices and rehabilitation, and procedures to help ensure the safety and security of youth and staff. We thank Senator Leno, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and all the co-sponsors for the collaborative work on this important issue.”


The will provide a uniform definition of “room confinement” as the placement of a youth in a sleeping room or cell alone with minimal contact from facility staff and limits the practice to 4 hours generally. In addition, the bill requires that room confinement shall only be used after all less restrictive options have been exhausted and that it cannot be used to the extent that it compromises the mental and physical health of the person.


“Young people across the state who are and were incarcerated have been calling for an end to long-term isolation for years,” said Kim McGill, an organizer with Youth Justice Coalition. “It is partly thanks to their powerful organizing that young people in juvenile facilities now have a much better chance at protecting their safety and dignity while in custody as well as improving their outcomes once they return home.”



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