In a petition headed for the desk of Attorney General Eric Holder, the ACLU is requesting that federal prisons end the practice of forcing juveniles into solitary confinement.
The civil-rights organization is trying to gather 50,000 signatures before sending the petition to Holder. A video titled “Hard to Watch, Impossible to Ignore” accompanies the petition, showcasing the torment that youth endure in solitary.
A portion of the petition reads, “Every day across the country, kids as young as 13 are held in solitary confinement with almost no human contact for days or months at a time. Solitary can amount to torture, and the consequences can be devastating for children because they are still developing — that's why we must stop this cruelty now.”
The ACLU has long been battling the issue, and last year issued a report titled “Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States.”
The report featured research from a number of jails and prisons, and revealed that solitary confinement is hazardous to physical and mental health. It also blocks rehabilitation rather than promoting it — and rehabilitation, at least in theory, is the main goal of incarceration in the first place.
Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, commented on the report, saying, “Young people have rights and needs that are different from adults; jail and prison practices should reflect those differences and promote their ability to grow and change – we should invest in youth, not banish them.”
The ACLU said that anonymous sources at the Department of Justice agree that juveniles should not be subjected to solitary confinement, but nobody has stepped forward to change the system.
In a recent statement, the ACLU said, “Solitary can amount to torture, and the consequences can be devastating for children because they’re still developing.”
The ACLU also noted that with tens of thousands of inmates held in solitary annually, the cruel punishment is far more widespread than most Americans think.