In Arizona, it is legal to place children in solitary confinement. And I should know: my 15-year-old son has been trapped in a cell by himself while he awaits a trial.
An alarming number of juveniles in the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections (ADJC) are placed in solitary confinement for extended periods of time. Children as young as 13 are kept alone in cells no larger than a bathroom, without windows, spending 22 or more hours a day in total isolation. The children hallucinate, lose control, hurt themselves or lose touch with reality - many become suicidal.
Every day I agonize over the treatment that has been given to my own son. As a mother and Arizona resident, I'm appalled this treatment is permitted in my state.
Children in solitary confinement are not allowed to go to school and can only exercise alone a few times a week in a metal cage. Some of these children were convicted as adults and put into solitary confinement for protection from the adults with whom they share cells. Many of these individuals were convicted of non-violent crimes like drug possession or burglary.
This treatment exacerbates mental illness. A recent study found that 1/3 of incarcerated youth who have depression developed the mental illness AFTER they began their incarceration.
There is also a strong correlation between isolation and youth suicide. Out of 110 youth suicides in correctional and detention facilities, 50% of the children were in solitary confinement at the time of suicide, and a full 62% had been in solitary confinement in the past.
It's time for this cruel and disturbing treatment of juvenile offenders to end. Stand up for my son and kids like him -- demand Gov. Brewer ban solitary confinement for children!
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