It is a fact of juvenile incarceration in adult facilities that they will spend time in solitary confinement. The adult facilities where they must serve their sentences are not structured to accommodate or protect juveniles. These young offenders who are still maturing and developing into adults are held in "bathrooms" until they are able to function in general population. This leads to mental illness, depression and suicide. Yes these young offender have committed crimes...broken the law...maybe even caused death. However, we must also realize that they will one day be released from prison and the harm they suffer while in solitary confinement will have impacted their development. Conditions of confinement are important to any kind of reform. They are most important to kids.
It was in 2005 that the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty for a juvenile was cruel and unusual punishment. In 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that Juvenile Life Without Parole for crimes other than murder was cruel and unusual punishment. In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that Juvenile Life Without Parole for murder was cruel and unusual punishment. With all these changes, there is hope that we will address conditions of confinement for juvenile offenders.
Imagine being confined in a bathroom for your entire life, having your movements scheduled and controlled, having your time outside controlled and never being free to make any choices. Imagine sitting in the bathroom knowing that you will die there. Life sentences are death sentences. Have we truly moved away from the death penalty?
Here are two articles with insight into juvenile solitary confinement and also the death penalty (from the executioner). Perhaps they will stir you to help change our current criminal justice practices.
Solitary Watch - Scarred by Solitary: Experiencing Prison Isolation As a Kid
Washington Post - Ex-Virginia executioner becomes opponent of death penalty
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