7Sep 2016

Banning the Solitary Confinement to Juveniles

“How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people? It doesn’t make us safer. It’s an affront to our common humanity.” Obama wrote in his published announcement about banning the solitary confinement to Juveniles in federal prisons on January 25, 2016. A decision that has been long fought after by many Americans, knowing how heartbreaking it is for a kid to be locked up in jail that could have been spent better in learning, growing, and maturing citizen with family rather than behind the cells of the prison.

On January 25, 2016, Barack Obama, the President of the United States, announced executive orders directly affecting the US criminal justice system of the entire nation. The two most important victories mentioned in the order are the banning of the solitary confinement to juveniles and to low-level offenses which are not criminal charges, and shorting the number or days for those who will be locked up for 60 days, from the original 365 days. With the new ruling, this has a huge impact on the current federal prisoners, as over 30% of them were arrested with low-level, non-criminal charges.

Studies show the negative impact on the minds of a young individual who is yet to be a fully developed adult when it comes to solitary confinement and the being locked up as well. This is the main rationale as to why the new ruling was set out.

On the same date, the Supreme Court also made an announcement in connection with the President’s new order. As of this new victory, this means a huge impact on the currently locked up inmates that were arrested as juvenile and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court announced that with the new ruling, the justice system can now give a chance for parole, as compared to the 2012 ruling where there was no possibility of parole for the juveniles who committed murders.

This federal ban for solitary confinement to juveniles has been previously announced for the Rikers Islands New York City Inmates was carried out by the state criminal justice system before it was set out as a federal rule.

Two years back, State of Kentucky has done similar changes on their criminal justice system during the first quarter of 2014 to relieve the state of long-standing financial burden brought about by the costs of custody of inmates in the state. Although the criminal rates are maintained at a minimum, the imprisonment population rates are too high in Kentucky, which is 45% compared to the 13% national percentage. Currently, there are 12 correctional facilities being maintained by the state.

A whopping $87,000 are spent by the state every year in locking up juveniles, which takes up most of the state’s budget, while incarcerating young people often have negative results and not really treating the root cause of the juveniles’ issues. An epic example of a juvenile detention in Kentucky is because of truancy. Young people can get jailed for skipping and being constantly absent from school, and almost everyone would agree that there is a deeper reason behind truancy and getting them jailed isn’t the most brilliant way to go.

Last year, Senator Whitney Westerfield spearheaded the bill in the state’s criminal justice system and its treatment of juveniles, stating his view on truancy “…it is more often than not a symptom of the bigger problem, if they’re missing school or they’re a habitual runaway, what are they running from? Is it physical abuse, substance abuse, behavioral, mental health issues?” a stand that numerous state officials have supported his proposal of reform. The Kentucky Juvenile Justice Department commissioner, Hasan Davis even help to drive the reform to take place in the state, having the personal sentiment about juveniles as he himself was once like these young inmates.

When he was 11, he was arrested for charges and experience the life of being a juvenile because of his troubled home life at that time. Due to his persistence, he was able to take his GED (General Educational Development) test and strived to rebuild his life to be a better person, while his relatives ended up in prison.

With the federal changes in the criminal justice system and how we consider the deeper resolutions to our younger citizens, we show more compassion and concern to the future generation. What Obama has done with the justice system, at the time nearing his reign of US presidency, it is always best to leave a legacy of humanity to the Americans that will always be remembered.

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