U.S. Attorney General Speaks About Juvenile Solitary Confinement

On May 13, 2014, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder featured the issue of excessive use of solitary confinement at juvenile detention centers, especially for children with disabilities, during his weekly video address.  Isolation is common.  “47% of juvenile detention centers reported locking youth in some type of isolation for more than four hours at a time.”  Attorney General Holder stated that juvenile incarceration must be used “to rehabilitate, and not merely to warehouse and forget.”  However, there may be short periods of time when isolation is necessary to protect the child, other children, or staff.  The Attorney General called for an end to “unnecessary or excessive seclusion of youth with disabilities, which can be counterproductive and in some cases extremely harmful.”  “One national study found that half of the victims of suicide in juvenile facilities were in isolation at the time they took their own lives, and 62% of the victims had a history of solitary confinement.”

As noted in this prior post, the Indiana Department of Correction Division of Youth Services has made great strides to limit the use of solitary confinement, but data is not readily available about the usage in the juvenile detention centers around the state.

These resources provide background and recommendations about the issues of using solitary confinement with juveniles:

July 5, 2013 letter from Robert L. Listenbee, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to the American Civil Liberties Union, which states, in part that “isolation of children is dangerous and inconsistent with best practices and that excessive isolation can constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

“Report of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence (December 12, 2012).  See particularly Chapter Six, “Rethinking Our Juvenile Justice System.”

Solitary Confinement of Youth, Juvenile Justice Reform Committee Policy Statement, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2012).

The United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprives of their Liberty (December 14, 1990).  Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez (August 23, 2013).

Alone & Afraid: Children Held in Solitary Confinement and Isolation in Juvenile Detention and Correctional Facilities, American Civil Liberties Union (November 2013).

Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (2012).

Criminal and juvenile justice reform advocacy groups letter dated October 11, 2013 to the U.S. Department of Justice concerning youth in solitary confinement.

The post U.S. Attorney General Speaks About Juvenile Solitary Confinement first appeared on the Indiana Juvenile Justice Blog.

 

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