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Policy Library

End Youth Solitary Confinement

There’s massive evidence that solitary confinement has long-term, negative mental health impacts, especially on kids, and there is no evidence that it reduces violence at juvenile facilities. Juvenile solitary confinement has been barred at federal prisons. The End Juvenile Solitary Confinement Act aligns state policy with the federal prison system.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee

Introduced in:

Florida, Nebraska

In The News

The New Yorker
Kalief Browder, 1993-2015
“Kalief Browder, who spent three years on Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime… had been arrested in the spring of 2010, at age sixteen, for a robbery he insisted he had not committed. Then he spent more than one thousand days on Rikers waiting for a trial that never happened. During that time, he endured about two years in solitary confinement, where he attempted to end his life several times.”
“Widespread research shows that solitary or room confinement can cause serious physiological harm to both adults and youths . . . [Y]outh, whose brains are still developing, are especially vulnerable.”
“Marcus Muray was 17 when he found himself in isolation after an altercation during a riot at a juvenile detention center he was being held in. . . . The now 21-year-old Philadelphia native said that moment still haunts him. “I was in a cell all day, three meals, one 10-minute phone call and that was it,” he said. Muray, who spent most of his childhood bouncing from one foster home to the next, recalled how nothing compared to the hopelessness he felt at the time. . . . ’You shouldn’t treat humans the way I was treated.’”

Partners

  • Youth advocates
  • Criminal justice advocates
  • Civil rights groups
  • Prison administrators

Opposition

  • Corrections officers resistant to changing practices, even in the face of evidence
Call us for real-time support using this library, problem-solving tips, and follow-up from our team of national experts:
The State Line
1-833-
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FAQ

Who does this help?
Eliminating this practice will reduce state expenditures, and help juvenile facilities rehabilitate their populations for the long-term, so they are more likely to live law-abiding adult lives. It will particularly benefit youth with unaddressed mental health or developmental needs.
Will this increase violence in state juvenile facilities?
No. Ending solitary confinement has been linked with increased safety in facilities in states across the United States. Corrections systems that have ended the use of solitary confinement report that their officers and facilities are as safe as they were before.
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Model Policy

SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the End Youth Solitary Confinement Act.

SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
To end the use of solitary confinement for young detainees in prisons, jails, and other detention centers for any purpose other than preventing immediate physical harm.

SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

(a) Definitions: “Covered juvenile” means any person under the age of 21 in a state-run or contracted prison, jail, or detention facility of any kind.

(b) The use of room confinement at a juvenile or correctional facility for discipline, punishment, retaliation, or any reason other than as a temporary response to a juvenile’s behavior that poses a serious and immediate risk of physical harm to any individual, including the juvenile, is prohibited.

(c) If a covered juvenile poses a serious and immediate risk of physical harm to any individual, including the juvenile, before a staff member of a juvenile facility places a covered juvenile in room confinement, the staff member shall attempt to use other less restrictive options, unless attempting those options poses a threat to the safety or security of any minor, or staff.

(d) If a covered juvenile is placed in room confinement because the covered juvenile poses a serious and immediate risk of physical harm to himself or herself, or to others, the covered juvenile shall be released:
  • (i) immediately when the covered juvenile has sufficiently gained control so as to no longer engage in behavior that threatens serious and immediate risk of physical harm to himself or herself, or to others; or
  • (ii) no more than 24 hours after being placed in room confinement if a covered juvenile does not sufficiently gain control as described in subsection (d)(i) and poses a serious and immediate risk of physical harm to himself or herself or others, not later than:
  • (1) 3 hours after being placed in room confinement, in the case of a covered juvenile who poses a serious and immediate risk of physical harm to others; or
  • (2) 30 minutes after being placed in room confinement, in the case of a covered juvenile who poses a serious and immediate risk of physical harm only to himself or herself.

(e) If, after the applicable maximum period of confinement has expired, a covered juvenile continues to pose a serious and immediate risk of physical harm to others,
  • (i) the covered juvenile shall be transferred to another juvenile facility or internal location where services can be provided to the covered juvenile without relying on room confinement or
  • (ii) if a qualified mental health professional believes the level of crisis service needed is not currently available, a staff member of the juvenile facility shall initiate a referral to a location that can meet the needs of the covered juvenile.

(f) Each facility detaining covered juveniles shall report the use of each incident of room confinement to the Attorney General each month, including:
  • (i) the name of the covered juvenile;
  • (ii) demographic data including at a minimum, age, race, gender, and primary language;
  • (iii) reason for room confinement, including how detention facility officials determined the covered juvenile posed an immediate risk of physical harm to others or to him or herself;
  • (iv) length of room confinement;
  • (v) number of covered juveniles transferred to another facility or referral to a separate crisis location covered under (e)
  • (vi) name of detention facility officials involved in each instance of room confinement.

(g) The Attorney General shall be empowered to review and enforce detention facility’s adherence to this section. If a private contractor involved in managing a detention facility does not adhere to this section, the Attorney General shall have the power to cancel any existing state contracts with such a contractor.