Photographer Richard Ross has been documenting the lives of kids behind bars for six years, but he recently found out first-hand what it’s like to be a kid in solitary.
In his account, Ross says all kids who enter that Midwestern facility (which is unnamed) must spend their first 24 hours in an isolation cell. The point of isolation, the facility told him, is for the kids “to calm down.”
When Ross entered solitary for his experiment, he was given a uniform and a bed with a 2-inch mattress.
There was a fluorescent light controlled from the outside that flickered on and off. The room was cold. There wasn’t any hot water in the sink.
Ross bemoaned the total lack of control over his own environment. He even had to ask for toilet paper from the guard, which he calls a “somewhat humiliating experience.”
Every day, there are roughly 70,000 kids in America held in juvenile detention or some other kind of custody such as group homes, according to the Campaign for Youth Justice. Many institutions hold children in solitary, sometimes for as long as 72 hours.
Ross says the end result is boredom, fear, and lack of control.
Last month, more than a dozen advocacy groups including Human Rights Watch and the ACLU called on the Justice Department to ban solitary for kids.
“International human rights law condemns solitary confinement for anyone under the age of 18 as a form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and supports a ban on the practice,” the letter said.
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