Target: Peggy Mashburn, Chief Communication Officer of Contra Costa County Office of Education
Goal: End maltreatment of minors with mental health conditions
A juvenile hall in the San Francisco Bay Area is currently facing charges for purposefully mistreating minors with mental health conditions. These minors are being punished severely for behavior that stems from their conditions.
The Contra Costa County probation system has been accused of locking minors in small cells for bouts of isolation. The young people who are put into isolation could be held there for days at a time and are deprived of their right to education. The probationary system has multiple tiers for the isolation that can be forced on the minors, each tier with a different required amount of time in isolation, and each tier with the possibility that minors will not receive general or special education while in isolation. Depriving minors of access to education in the juvenile hall system is illegal.
The lawsuit against the California juvenile hall cites specific stores of minors who were held in solitary for very long amounts of time — some for two months out of a four-month period, another for over 100 days in one year. These students, and others who are put in solitary confinement are unable to attend their classes and then are punished further for missing out on the required educational activities. One of the students cited in the lawsuit began to hear voices and suffered from a psychotic episode after being forced to stay alone for so much time.
Placing minors in solitary confinement for extended periods of time and depriving them of education is illegal, but is even more problematic when minors are punished for acting out based on mental health conditions. Minors can find themselves in isolation because of refusing to follow orders or for comments made towards superiors, among other actions, and these actions can stem from the minors’ mental health conditions or disabilities. Juvenile halls are expected to have a different plan of action in terms of addressing behavior that stems from such conditions, but this particular hall has not been abiding by that law. Putting individuals with mental health conditions into solitary confinement and punishing them in this way can make their conditions even worse.
By signing the petition below you will be calling for an end of this inhumane treatment of minors with mental health conditions.
Dear Chief Communication Officer Peggy Mashburn,
It is illegal to deprive minors in juvenile hall of their right to education, even when these individuals are being punished. It is also illegal to punish individuals for behavior that relates to a mental health condition in the same way that punishment would be given to others.
I am writing you to ask you to condemn you for your maltreatment of minors with mental health conditions in your juvenile hall facility. It is abhorrent that you would put a young person in solitary confinement without access to education for refusal to follow orders or defiant comments, particularly when these actions stem from mental health conditions. Punishment in this method will not help the individuals in the institution to rehabilitate or make positive change, but instead will further hinder their ability to transform and be prepared for life outside of the institution. Your failure to protect and defend the rights of these minors is disappointing and will not be tolerated.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: amanderson2 via Flickr