In April, a 15-year-old boy housed at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center spent the entire day alone in a small cell. Michael (the names of juveniles in this story have been changed to protect their anonymity) was put in a hold by a guard and taken out of his classroom at the facility’s school. As he repeatedly said, “I am not resisting” and “no aggression” — a phrase used at AJATC to indicate compliance — Michael was brought across campus to Building 19.
Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights Watch published a new report titled “Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States.”
The publication involved interviews with more than 125 juveniles in 19 states, alongside detention officials in 10 states. The authors of the report argue that solitary confinement harms young people mentally and physically, with juveniles frequently denied access to medical, rehabilitative and psychological treatments and services while in confinement. Furthermore, the report alleges that in jails and prisons across the United States, young people are routinely subjected to extensive stays in solitary confinement — in some cases, for weeks and even months at a time. “Solitary confinement of adolescents is unnecessary,” the report reads. “There are alternative ways to address the problems — whether disciplinary, administrative, protective or medical — which officials typically cite as justifications for solitary confinement.”
The authors of the report state that approximately one third of the young people they interviewed reported being held in solitary confinement for one to six months before turning 18.
Schools cannot put children in seclusion rooms as a form of punishment anymore, and must limit the use of physical and chemical restraints. The State Board of Education approved new rules Thursday for handcuffing children, controlling them with prone restraint tactics, and giving them prescription drugs to control their behavior. These measures are now limited to situations where students are an immediate danger to themselves or others, or when calming techniques don’t work. Parents of 13-year old Jonathon King of Gainesville pushed for changes after their son hanged himself in a seclusion room in 2004. Jonathan was a student in the Alpine Program, a public school in Gainesville, Ga.