Target: Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the Department of Justice, Robert Listenbee Jr.
Goal: To call for the eradication of the use of solitary confinement on child prisoners in the U.S.
Not only does the U.S. lead the world in its number of incarcerated citizens, but—particularly revealing of its values—it leads the world in incarcerated children. Many of these children are forcefully ushered into juvenile detention facilities or adult prisons. The practices of punishment within these two facilities are nearly identical. One truly deplorable practice, solitary confinement, is used on children just as on incarcerated adults. However, an immature, developing child is going to be far more affected by the debilitating forces of complete isolation than a mature adult.
In a recent article, Ian Kysel of The Hill writes, “Kids who had been in solitary told me how they lost control. They described fits of rage, anxiety attacks, depression. They told me about being denied adequate exercise, books and education, family visits. ‘The only thing left to do is go crazy – just sit and talk to the walls,’ a youth confined in Florida told me. ‘Screaming, throwing stuff around – I feel like I am alone, like no one cares about me. Sometimes I feel like, why am I even living?’ More than a few spoke in candid detail about trying to kill themselves. In fact, more than half of all suicides in juvenile facilities occurred when children were in isolation.”
The discourse regarding solitary confinement is heavily tainted by ideological rhetoric. The practice is granted nobility when it is referred to it as “secure confinement,” or “special management units.” Let’s call it what it is. It’s taking a child (granted, one who committed a crime), and placing them into a room by themselves for 22 to 24 hours a day at a time. It is already a cruel practice when enforced upon adults, but on children?
The U.S. is home to more than 90,000 incarcerated children. The newly appointed Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the Department of Justice, Robert Listenbee Jr., has a chance to at least make some solid impact on the reorganization of our justice system. He can work towards the eradication of the use of solitary confinement on children. It almost seems trivial to exact such a move when the very real issue is that more than 90,000 children currently locked up. That number is truly the greatest indictment of America. Yet, the abdication of the practice of solitary confinement on child prisoners is a good start, and we must begin to reach the end.
Sign below to call upon Robert Listenbee Jr. to work towards ending the use of solitary confinement on incarcerated children.
Dear Robert Listenbee Jr.,
You have been granted a degree of power, and with it, you have a responsibility to the people. These times are defined by ideological obstruction, and misplaced will. Nobody seems to make decisions based on the good of anything anymore. Rather than using the power granted to them by citizens for good, they make decisions only with the intent of how best to make sure that power can be secured for longer.
In this climate, a single act of good can have a reverberating effect. More than 90,000 children are currently prisoners in America. At this point, they can be subjected to brutal practices of punishment such as solitary confinement. We hope that you will use your newly acquired power for the eradication of this practice. Torture is evil enough when exacted on grown individuals, but when done to children?
We are tired of the same archetypical politician. You have a chance to make a change, so make it.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Center for American Progress