50 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
solitary confinement and conditions in lockdown units repeatedly surfaced in the LA Times
investigative reports. 49
It was during this time period that the use of “solitary confinement” grew exponentially.
Many familiar with Youth Authority believe that the precipitating event ushering in this era of
“solitary confinement” was the 1996 stabbing and strangulation of CYA staff member, Ineasie
Baker by a youth at the Heman G. Stark Youth Authority facility.50 Youth in the facility were
subsequently locked down for two months. 51 One of the units in the facility was on lockdown so
often that it was nicknamed “The Rock.” 52
B. Legislative Interest and Hearings
Concern about Youth Authority and its problems hit critical mass on May 16, 2000 when
the Legislature held a Joint Informational Hearing on the California Youth Authority. 53 Chaired
by Senator John Vasconcellos and Assembly Member Carl Washington, the day-long hearing
featured testimony by agency officials, advocates and families of incarcerated youth. 54
The system’s use of locked room confinement was prominently discussed at the hearing.
A young person spoke about being detained for ten months in a lockdown unit in which he could
come out of his room for only one hour per day:
I spent ten months on the Taft lock-down unit for assaultive wards. I was considered
a threat to regular staff. For the first month-and-a-half that I was there, I came out
of my room for one hour a day. As soon as the shift came on, which is about 6
o’clock in the morning, I would have my handcuffs removed out of my room to
shower. My shower would count as part of my hour, as part of my large muscle
exercise. I would sometimes have to eat in my handcuffs in front of the TV. That
would be part of my large muscle exercise. That would be it. For a month-and-a-
half I did that. 55
Youth Law Center testimony further detailed the extensive use of locked room time in
I have had letters from kids…essentially in protective custody, locked down 23
hours a day. They get the wonderful educational services which are basically a
sham, to have a teacher come to the crack in your door for ten minutes a day. You
49 Guards at Youth Prison Accused of Abusing Inmates, supra note 48; Lawmakers Put Pressure on New CYA Chief,
supra note 48; Agency’s Trouble-Shooter Finds Himself Under Fire, supra note 48; Gladstone & Rainey, supra note
48; Head of Youth Agency Forced to Resign, supra note 48; Another Try at Youth Justice Reform, supra note 48;
Warren, supra note 48; Rainey, supra note 48.
50 Krisberg et al., supra note 25, at 12; James Rainey & Tipton Blish, Man Guilty in Death of CYA Staffer Court: Jury
Convicts Inmate in 1996 Stabbing and Strangulation of Counselor at Youth Prison, L.A. TIMES (Oct. 4, 2000),
51 Ann Griffith, YTS inmates: they treat us like animals – prison officials deny accusations of abuse, DAILY BULLETIN,
4 (Nov. 22, 1997).
52 Agency’s Trouble-Shooter Finds Himself Under Fire, supra note 48.