The cages used by the California Youth Authority to constrain inmates while they are being taught, once hailed as educational progress, are being criticized as something more thoughtless and inhumane, says the Los Angeles Times. Now the Youth Authority may get rid of them.
The cages remain in use, said a former official, because they work. Inmates assigned to them “have been in classrooms, but have been attacked. Or they fought in class, or on the way to class,” he said. The cages allow youths “to get an education and not attack teachers or be attacked,” he said.
To Youth Law Center lawyer Sue Burrell, the cages reflect the authority’s reliance on dehumanizing policies of “punish, punish, punish.” The cages bring to mind circus animals, she said – “Barnum & Bailey tiger cages … dog kennels.”
There are about 70 cages at the four highest-security youth prisons. They were introduced in 1998 as a temporary compromise – a way to make sure that inmates who were violent still received personal instruction, and were not left to languish in high-security cells. The cages are large boxes in which wards are supplied with a chair and desk, and teachers instruct them through a barrier of metal mesh or chain link.