Reform Advocates Targeting 24 States That Put Juveniles in Solitary Confinement
Date:  03-07-2016

Studies reveal long-term psychological damage to juveniles held in solitary confinement
Originally posted in Yes! Magazine on February 29, 2016

"Prison reform advocates see signs of hope in recent federal and state actions that alter the way young adults are incarcerated.

Last week, the Kansas State Senate passed a bill to revamp its juvenile justice system. The state has one of the highest rates of youth incarceration in the nation. Pushed by local juvenile justice reformers, the bill would close juvenile offender group homes, standardize the sentencing of juveniles, and provide $2 million for alternatives to detention such as therapeutic counseling.

The move came after an executive order issued by President Obama on Jan. 25, which bans the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. That same day, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling affecting mandatory life sentences for inmates convicted as juveniles. While both are limited in scope—there are only 26 juveniles in federal prison, for example—advocates are hopeful for the future.

“The president’s decision was an enormous display of moral leadership,” says Amy Fettig, the senior staff counsel of the ACLU. “Having the federal government, which is the largest incarcerator in the nation, no longer practice solitary confinement will set a precedent and force other states around the country to re-evaluate the practice.”

A 2013 ACLU report found that children held in solitary confinement experience greater, and longer-lasting degrees of psychological damage.

Solitary confinement, called modern-day torture by its critics, is the practice of isolating a juvenile for between 22 and 24 hours a day, and is currently permitted in 24 states." Read more.