Kids Put in Solitary Confinement in California's Juvie Jails

| Thu Jun. 16, 2011 4:48 PM EDT

Based on findings by the state’s own court-appointed overseers, California Watch reports that "Juvenile inmates at California correctional facilities have been held in isolation nearly 24 hours straight on hundreds of occasions this year, in violation of state regulations."

An audit by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in March found multiple facilities operated by the Division of Juvenile Justice kept youth prisoners deemed a threat in their cells for all but 40 minutes a day. Auditors found Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, to be the worst offender.

The juveniles placed on "temporary detention" or "temporary intervention plans" can be placed in solitary confinement for 21 hours a day.

Youth facilities exceeded that limit 249 times from January through April, according to numbers provided to Nancy Campbell, who is appointed by the state courts to oversee the juvenile facilities.

Keep in mind that California’s regulations actually permit juvenile prisoners to be isolated 21 out of 24 hours, yet the state’s facilities cannot manage to get teens out of their cells or rooms for even three hours a day. This despite the fact that a 2000 report by California’s Inspector General found that keeping juveniles in prolonged isolation can have a "profound" impact on their well-being. The problem, according to the audit, reflects the crisis in California’s adult prisons, as recently addressed by the Supreme Court: there are simply too many kids in juvie, with too few staff and resources to deal with them humanely.