Lowenstein Sandler Releases Updated Nationwide Survey on the Use of Solitary Confinement in Juvenile Detention Facilities

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The nation is moving away from the use of punitive solitary confinement
in juvenile detention facilities, according to a new survey by the
Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler. In
recognition of Youth Justice Awareness Month and National Pro Bono Week,
the Center has published a 51-jurisdiction survey of rules and policies
governing the solitary confinement of juveniles, updated from one it
released in 2013. The survey is available online at http://www.lowensteinprobono.com/reports/.

The updated survey captures more detailed information from practitioners
and the administrators of juvenile facilities about the actual use of
solitary confinement in their jurisdictions, as compared to just the
written rules and policies. The current version also undertakes a more
detailed review of the permitted uses of solitary confinement for
reasons other than punishment.

“Much progress has occurred in the short time since the survey was first
released in 2013,” notes Natalie Kraner, Pro Bono Counsel at Lowenstein
Sandler:

  • The Department of Justice has recognized the dangers of solitary
    confinement to juveniles in particular, and its overuse in juvenile
    facilities;
  • Several states, including New Jersey, Illinois, and Ohio, have
    recently banned the use of punitive isolation; and others, such as
    California, have pending legislation that, if passed, will eliminate
    the use of punitive solitary confinement in line with the growing
    national trend;
  • Twenty-one states now prohibit the use of punitive solitary
    confinement by either law or practice, and twenty more impose
    time-limits on the use of punitive solitary confinement;
  • However, of the twenty-one states that ban punitive solitary
    confinement, we have confirmed that nineteen continue to use solitary
    confinement for other purposes, such as safety concerns. And only
    seven of these nineteen set limits on the maximum time a juvenile can
    spend in non-punitive solitary confinement.

“While these changes reduce the risk of serious harm to juveniles in
secure facilities, we still have a long way to go,” Kraner adds.
“Despite the growing number of bans on punitive isolation, the
overwhelming majority of states continue to lock young people up alone,
potentially for long periods, based on a perceived threat to themselves,
others, or the security of the facility. Policies that permit the
overbroad and prolonged use of non-punitive solitary confinement may
expose juveniles to the very same physical and psychological harms that
the abolition of punitive isolation is meant to prevent.”

Adds Kraner, “We prepared the updated survey with the goal of distilling
best practices from those states that have not only eliminated punitive
isolation, but also closely regulated the non-punitive use of isolation
by imposing safeguards such as meaningful time-limits, supervisory
approval, the early intervention of mental health professionals, and
continued access to education and social services. Our hope is that this
survey will assist states in passing rules and policies that have the
appropriate protections in place.”

The Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest is a member of the New
Jersey Juvenile Justice Reform Coalition, which is pursuing system-wide
reforms of New Jersey’s juvenile justice system, including promoting
alternatives to incarceration for youth and improving conditions of
confinement for those who are incarcerated. Members of the Coalition’s
Steering Committee also include Advocates for Children of New Jersey,
the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the New Jersey
Institute for Social Justice, the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus, and
Rutgers Law School Children’s Justice Clinic in Camden and Criminal and
Youth Justice Clinic in Newark.

Contacts

Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler
Natalie
Kraner, 973-422-6722