solitary: Thoughtful Lonely Young Boy Sitting on the Floor Inside an Isolated Room and Waiting for Hope Against Black Background

More States Need to Limit Solitary Confinement, Which Doesn’t Work

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) approved a resolution in 2016 to limit the use of solitary for young people, urging judges to take leadership positions in the effort. We recently presented to NCJFCJ’s annual conference seeking to highlight the role that judges can and should play in ending solitary. We presented recent reforms in Colorado as proof that success can be achieved.

Mental health: Child in Prison. Concept sign for all forms of child abuse like physical punishment or mental cruelty

Only Some Correctional Staff Being Taught How to Handle Traumatized Inmates

Steven Cave’s transformation happened in spite of a system that calls itself correctional but instead, he says, perpetuated his worst traumas, beliefs and behaviors. He entered that system in the state that has sentenced the most minors to life without parole, and where solitary confinement was a favorite method of punishment. In 2013, the Department of Justice found the state’s use of it in several facilities was unconstitutional.

3 black walls, dark table on right, wooden bench attached to back wall.

Rikers Doesn’t Put Teens in Solitary; Other New York Jails Do

Solitary confinement is not allowed for inmates younger than 18 at federal and state-run facilities in New York, but for teens like Imani — held in a county jail, waiting for their cases to be heard — it’s a common practice. Local jails use solitary as punishment, and since many counties rarely have separate facilities for juveniles, isolation cells are also routinely used as holding cells for minors.

Kids in Isolation: Locked Away in Dermott

Around four months ago, Benjamin Knuckles’ 16-year-old son tried to escape from the Dermott Juvenile Treatment Center. As punishment, he was driven up the road to the Dermott Juvenile Correctional Facility, a nearby facility for 18-21-year-olds, and placed alone in a single-cell unit. He remained confined there for more than 24 hours.

Arkansas Kids in Isolation: Locked Away in Alexander

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.