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Thousands of teens are being punished — by being locked in a box.

A room 10 feet by 7 feet. No human contact for months. How does this do teenagers any good?

Thousands of teens are being punished — by being locked in a box.

In March 2014, Reveal, one of the websites of the Center for Investigative Reporting, did some investigating into the treatment of teenagers imprisoned on New York City's Rikers Island.

And what they found was pretty shocking: Teenagers were regularly put into solitary confinement.

"At any given time, about 100 teenagers are housed in solitary confinement at Rikers Island. ... Every day, thousands of teenagers around the U.S. are held in solitary confinement, but no one knows for sure how many. That's because the federal government does not require prisons, jails, and juvenile halls to report the number of young people they put in isolation or how long they keep them there." — Reveal

Reveal spoke with a teenager, Ismael "Izzy" Nazario, who throughout his time at Rikers Island spent a total of 300 days in solitary.


That's right, 300 days.

So teenagers — young people in their most formative years — are essentially being locked in a box.

Image by Wolfram Burner/Flickr.

A 10-by-7 room. They have no human contact. Just a toilet, a sink, and a bunk. Food comes in through a slot in the door. They might go on like this for six months.

Imagine how someone might react after days in that condition. Well, you don't have to imagine. Reports show evidence of young people pounding the walls, screaming, hallucinating, self-harming, and attempting, and committing, suicide.

Image via YouthSpeaks.

Many people were outraged by what CIR found and by Izzy's story, like Gabriel Cortez, an incredibly talented slam poet. Cortez believes that solitary confinement is a form of torture and that youth should instead be receiving the support they deserve.

Through art, writing, and good old-fashioned protest, he spoke out.

"But what room is there for growth in a cell with barely enough room to stand? What room is there for therapy and rehabilitation when trauma is promised 23 hours a day?"
— Gabriel Cortez

Check out his amazing video here. Heads up for some disturbing visuals.

The good news? As a result of the findings, Rikers Island will no longer place individuals below the age of 21 in solitary confinement.

But there's more work to be done.

Want to get other cities and states on board with protecting more young folks from this treatment?

You can. You have many options: from helping fund nonprofits like the National Juvenile Defender Center, to using ACLU's advocacy toolkits from its Stop Solitary campaign to organize in your region. You can also sign ACLU's petition to the Attorney General demanding an end to youth solitary confinement.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.