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LA County ends solitary confinement for juveniles

posted May 5, 2016, 9:00 AM by Resty Manapat

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to stop putting youths in solitary confinement except in urgent circumstances.  

The motion calls for new procedures and enforcement techniques to ban solitary confinement in all of the county’s juvenile detention facilities — other than in “very rare situations.”  

“We can’t afford to treat these youngsters in this manner and expect that when they get out, they’re going to be OK,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Hilda Solis, who co-authored the bill with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl before the vote.  

Isolation will be allowed only “after all other interventions have been exhausted” and as a “temporary response to behavior that poses a serious and immediate risk of physical harm to any person,” according to the motion.  

The new policy will be implemented at the Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles, Ronald McNair Juvenile Camp in Lancaster and Camp Joseph Scott in Santa Clarita by the end of May. The remaining juvenile facilities have until the end of September to implement the new policy.  

The move comes just months after President Barack Obama banned solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system.  

Dozens of young people, activists and professionals spoke in favor of the measure.  

Among them was Kirn Kim, a formerly incarcerated youth who spent 15 months in solitary confinement between the ages of 16 and 18.  

Kim said that many children placed in solitary confinement will act out because they are children and don’t have coping skills that come with maturity.  

“I can recall a young girl ... being placed in these (arm) restraints and in isolation screaming and crying, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ — repeatedly, for hours on end,” he said. “How is that considered acceptable to our society?”  

But Andrea Gordon, president of a union representing a group of probation managers, said while she’s not in favor of solitary confinement, she’s very concerned about safety and security. Many kids enter juvenile facilities and bring with them “violent gang rivalries” from the streets and a dangerous situation can erupt “in the blink of an eye.”  

“Nobody should have to die for a paycheck,” she said.  

Cal Remington, the county’s interim chief probation officer, said the probation department is “absolutely committed to doing away with solitary confinement” and has been moving toward doing just that for some time.  

But the ability to use it should exist in dangerous situations, he said.  

For example, there was a disturbance at one of the county’s juvenile facilities Sunday involving as many as 17 youths, he said. There were no major injuries or arrests, but the incident was under investigation, officials said.  

The county’s juvenile facilities, which include three juvenile halls, 13 camps and a residential treatment center, house about 1,250 people.  


Source: LA Daily News