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Campaign Calls on Governors and Local Sheriffs to Protect Youth from the Dangers of Adult Jails and Prisons

 

Ensure Your State is in Compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act

WASHINGTION (October 10, 2016) -- During the month of October as part of National Youth Justice Awareness/Action Month (YJAM), the Campaign for Youth Justice as well as advocacy organizations and individuals across the country are calling on Governors and local sheriffs to protect youth in adult jails and prisons by complying with the Youthful Inmate Standard of the Prison Rape Elimination Action (PREA) preferably by removing all youth from adult jails and prisons.

Passed unanimously by Congress in 2003, PREA restricts the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) adopted the Youthful Inmate Standard to restrict the placement of youth in adult facilities and attempt to safeguard those who do end up in adult facilities.

-The PREA Youthful Inmate Standard requires the following:
Banning the housing of youth in the general adult population;
-Prohibiting contact between youth and adults in common areas, and ensuring youth are constantly supervised by staff; and
-Limiting the use of isolation which causes or exacerbates mental health problems for youth.

By October 15, 2016, Governors must report to the Department of Justice whether their state is in full compliance with PREA or submit an assurance to use at least 5% of certain DOJ grant funds in order to achieve full compliance with PREA in future years. If they do not do one of these two things they risk losing a percentage of federal funding allocated for justice programs in their state.

Every year, approximately 200,000 youth are exposed to the dangers of the adult criminal justice system. It is crucial that Governors and local law enforcement make an effort to fully protect these youth.  We know that youth in adult facilities are 19 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population and 36 times more likely to commit suicide than their peers in juvenile detention centers.  Of the 16 and 17 year olds who reported being victimized in adult jails and prisons, two-thirds reported being victimized more than once by other inmates and three-quarters were victimized by staff more than once.

This issue is particularly critical in states that automatically treat all 16 and/or 17 year olds as adults and in state that do not implement PREA at all.  Advocates in North Carolina and New York, the only two states in the country that automatically treat 16 and 17 year olds as adults have submitted letters to their Governors on this issue. This action is particularly timely given a recent lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 16 and 17 year olds held in solitary confinement sometimes for months at a time in an adult jail in Onondaga County, New York.  According to the lawsuit, since October 2015, the sheriff in Onondaga has placed at least 86 youth in solitary confinement over 250 times where they spent 23 hours a day locked in a tiny cell without services. 

In addition, youth advocates in Arkansas and Utah, the only states that haven’t implement PREA, have submitted a letter urging their Governors to also take steps to implement PREA and the Youthful Inmate Standard for the first time. 

To add your voice to the advocates calling for the end of placing youth in adult facilities, visit the Campaign for Youth Justice’s PREA Action Week Kit for more information on how to take action.  Visit here. 

Please visit CFYJ’s fact sheet on the Prison Rape Elimination Act, by visiting here:

Join the conversation on #ImplementPREA #YJAM

Follow CFYJ on Twitter, and Facebook.

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The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is a national organization dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.

For more background on this issue, please visit www.campaignforyouthjustice.org    

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