Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union have just issued a joint report on a disturbing practice by several states, including Florida, and several counties, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
That is the practice of putting inmates under age 18 in solitary confinement for periods ranging from one day to more than 365 days.
“Locking kids in solitary confinement with little or no contact with other people is cruel, harmful and unnecessary,” said Ian Kysel, Aryeh Neier Fellow with the ACLU and HRW and author of the report, Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary
Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States.
We agree entirely. As the report says, this practice seems to violate international human rights law and the U.S. Constitution’s safeguards regarding punishing minors.
The report’s call for an end to the practice and for more humane laws and policies on punishing children who commit crimes should motivate all people of good conscience to take action to see that it happens.
Indeed, the whole institution of crime and punishment in the U.S. is due for a major overhaul.
A lot of us seem to be laboring under the illusion that the more Americans we put behind bars, and the harsher we deal with them during incarceration, the safer we are and a better nation we become.
There can be no other reason for the fact that we lead the world in prisoners: more than two million.
There is little evidence that any notable effort is being made to rehabilitate them, even though some facilities are officially labeled “corrections and rehabilitation.”
This sort of thinking is in line with the practices, now outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court, thanks to attorney Bryan A. Stevenson and his Equal Justice Initiative, of sentencing children to death and, later, putting them behind bars without the possibility of parole.
It is way past time to infuse compassion into our criminal justice system and end the pervasive injustices that permeate it.