The Onondaga County Legislator's "Public Safety Committee" has voted to place the Resolution to End Youth Solitary Confinement on the September 5th Legislative Session agenda. The resolution, which was written with input and collectively approved by the County Executive's Office, The Onondaga County Sheriff's office, County Legislature attorneys, and other County Legislators, seeks the end of Youth Solitary Confinement in all Onondaga County facilities. It is expected to be discussed and called to a vote during the September 5th Legislative Session. If the resolution is passed, we may see dramatic reform to our local criminal justice system and, perhaps, the end of youth solitary confinement in all of Onondaga County.
This resolution must be passed to abolish the use of youth solitary confinement countywide, suffered by dozens of children over the past years. Without the resolution, our progress with this issue may slip away. Members of the Syracuse community who stand for sensible criminal justice reform have been called to attend the Legislative Session to advocate for passage of this resolution. The ACTS Criminal Justice Task Force will be present at the session with its allies, and implores you to appear as well. Please show up and support the well-being of our youth!
The resolution was introduced by Legislator Chris Ryan of the 8th District with co-sponsorhips from Legislators Linda Ervin, Monica Williams, Peggy Chase, and John Dougherty. The Criminal Justice Task Force of ACTS has worked tirelessly with County Legislators and other allies to end this abhorrent practice since January, 2015 when the issue was first brought forward by The Grace Project, a ministry of Grace Episcopal Church.
Why Reform to Youth Solitary Confinement is Vital:
The United Nations has widely condemned the use of solitary confinement, denouncing any internment longer than 15 days as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading torture.” The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is even less forgiving in cases involving children, and advised that youth solitary confinement receive an incontrovertible ban. Yet, somewhere in the world, there was a jail that locked children in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, and weeks or months at a time.
In this jail, unconvicted youth who could not afford bail were tossed into cells smaller than an elevator for infractions as trivial as “wearing the wrong shoes.” The dark-green walls of the cells were covered in scratch marks from previous occupants, and the floors were often strewn with feces and urine. Through small openings, youth heard the threats of nearby adult prisoners to sexually harass them, and cover them in excrement.
“It’s like the cells are designed to make you act crazy,” said a 16-year-old prisoner, “I tried doing crossword puzzles but kept thinking about killing myself.”