Target: Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Goal: Outlaw the practice of keeping prisoners under the age of 18 in solitary confinement
The adverse psychological effects of long-term solitary confinement have been well-documented in prisons across America, but no one is more vulnerable to the damage done by forced isolation than prisoners who have not even yet reached adulthood. Subjecting children to solitary confinement is a cruel, unethical form of punishment that has no place in a just prison system.
A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch details how solitary confinement exacerbates mental, physical and emotional health problems in incarcerated teenagers. While prison officials may argue that isolating teens protects them from adult prisoners or appropriately punishes them for bad behavior, interviews with teenage prisoners themselves prove otherwise. Young prisoners who had been placed in solitary confinement reported acute episodes of self-injury, hallucinations, and disassociation. Some even attempted suicide in their cells. Many were denied access to books and other reading material, with their only source of stimulation coming from the chance to exercise in small metal cages by themselves a few times a week. They had no interaction with other prisoners. They were not even allowed to be visited by their families.
Convicted criminals who have yet to reach the age of 18 have the greatest chance at living healthy, productive adult lives–but only if they can be given effective treatment and rehabilitation. Keeping juvenile offenders in solitary confinement doesn’t alter their course for the future. It only helps to cement their status as criminals by worsening the problems that led them to commit crimes in the first place. Tell the Federal Bureau of Prisons that subjecting teens to solitary confinement is unjust and must be stopped immediately.
Dear Charles E. Samuels, Jr.,
Subjecting teenagers to solitary confinement is an unethical form of punishment that has no place in a just prison system. Yet prisons across America continue to use solitary confinement to separate teenage offenders from adult convicts or to punish bad behavior.
Solitary confinement has been proven to have adverse effects on the physical and mental health of prisoners of all ages, but offenders who have not even reached adulthood remain especially vulnerable to the illness isolation can provoke. Teenage prisoners have reported cutting themselves with staples or razors in their cells. They experience acute hallucinatory episodes and disassociate from reality.
Often, these young prisoners are denied access to reading material, paper, writing utensils, and other necessary forms of stimulation. Their parents are prohibited from visiting them for long periods of time and they are not allowed to attend classes or other prison programs. This social deprivation only worsens the behavioral health issues that landed these juvenile offenders in prison in the first place, condemning them to a future inside the prison system instead of changing the course of their lives through rehabilitation.
I demand that you take responsibility for these young people’s lives and ban the practice of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities immediately.
[Your Name Here]