California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation yesterday that will restrict the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities in the state, capping a lengthy legislative effort by advocates to curb the practice.
Put forward by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Senate Bill 1143 bars the use of room confinement and isolation (as the legislation refers to solitary confinement) for purposes of punishment, retaliation or coercion of minor detainees in California juvenile facilities.
Now, staff members at detention facilities like juvenile halls and camps can use room confinement only when other, less restrictive measures have already been employed. Under the new law, room confinement must be limited to four hours and cannot be used in a way that harms the mental and physical health of the youth in detention.
The negative socioemotional consequences of solitary confinement on juveniles has received widespread national attention in recent years, leading to a rising number of jurisdictions either outlawing or severely restricting the practice.
In January, President Barack Obama banned solitary confinement for minors in federal prisons, though the move was largely symbolic. Nineteen other states have enacted restrictions on the use of isolation for juveniles in detention. New York City has curbed the use of solitary confinement for all inmates under the age of 21 at the Rikers Island jail. In May, Los Angeles County restricted the use of isolation practices at its three juvenile halls and 13 camps.
SB 1143 succeeded where several other legislative efforts had failed in recent years. This was the fifth consecutive year that bills aimed at ending solitary confinement had been introduced in the California legislature. This year, however, support from the Chief Probation Officers of California proved to be a key part of achieving success.
The law will go into effect across the state on January 1, 2017.