[Pnews] Children Held in Solitary Confinement in Nebraska for Days, Weeks, Even Months
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 12 13:40:37 EST 2016
*Children Held in Solitary Confinement in Nebraska for “Days, Weeks,
Even Months” *
*New ACLU Report Finds Widespread Use of Isolation in State's Juvenile
By Sal Rodriguez
Passing notes, talking in hallway and having too many books in your room
are among the reasons children in Nebraska detention facilities have
been locked in solitary confinement, according to a report
released last week.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska found widely varying
policies governing the isolation of juveniles in the nine detention
facilities throughout the state, while some maintained little
documentation of their use of the practice. “Before they are old enough
to get a driver’s license, enlist in the armed forces or vote, some
children in Nebraska are held in solitary confinement for days, weeks,
even months,” the ACLU reported.
Based on a growing consensus that solitary confinement is harmful to the
developing brain, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E.Méndez, the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American
Medical Association have called for either the prohibition or
restriction of isolating juveniles.
What the ACLU of Nebraska found was the widespread use of solitary
confinement, varying considerably from facility to facility. “Some
facilities reported they use room restriction for periods, then permit
the juvenile to attend classes before placing the juvenile back in room
restriction,” the report explains. “In contrast, some facilities impose
room restriction or solitary confinement without any periods out of
Children placed in solitary confinement at the Youth Rehabilitation and
Treatment Center in Kearney spent an average of 20.8 hours in isolation,
while those at the Geneva facility spend an average of 43.78 hours. In
contrast, those isolated in the Northeast Nebraska Juvenile Services
Center spent an average of 189.16 hours in solitary confinement. Those
held under the jurisdiction of the Nebraska Department of Corrections in
the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility (pictured above) have spent up
to 90 days in solitary confinement.
The report features the stories of three individuals who have spent time
in isolation in Nebraska. Jacob had three stints in the Douglas County
Youth Facility between the ages of 15 and 17. First isolated “for his
own good” because he had a broken ankle, his next two terms followed
attacks by older detainees. Jacob reportedly received no regular visits
by mental health staff.
Reflecting on his experiences, Jacob says: “These kids weren’t born
tough or angry. These kids were dealing with abandonment and depression
and abuse. Lockdown brings out all these demons. And if you don’t know
how to deal with demons—you’re a kid, you don’t even know how to deal
with normal emotions yet—then you’re sitting there by yourself, nowhere
to go and every negative thing you’ve been told about yourself seems to
be coming true. Every time I look at the news, someone I was in jail
with or someone I mentored is going to prison for life. They go to the
system for correction—they go in as sheep—and they come out as wolves.
If a factory pumped out a bad product over and over again, you wouldn’t
blame the product, you’d go back to the factory and try to fix that
The ACLU of Nebraska recommended the following reforms:
* Joining the growing number of states banning solitary confinement
* Limiting solitary confinement to a last-resort and for no more than
* Providing due-process and an appeals process.
* Requiring facility director permission for placement of a youth
beyond four hours and mandatory mental health assessments of youth
placed in solitary for this period.
* Mandatory reporting for facilities use of solitary.
* Mandatory staff training on alternatives to solitary.
In response to the report
the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said they were working
with the Vera Institute of Justice and other stakeholders “to develop
rules and regulations governing the use of restrictive housing for all
populations.” Similarly, the Nebraska Department of Health & Human
Services, which operates the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers,
issued a statement saying their goal is to further reduce lengths of
stay in isolation.
On Monday, the /Omaha World-Herald/ published an editorial
calling for lawmakers to review the use of isolation against juveniles.
“Solitary confinement can be an effective tool for jailers to manage
unruly prisoners and keep some at-risk prisoners safe,” the editorial
argued. “But too many state, city and county jailers seem to be addicted
to solitary confinement. They put too many prisoners in solitary too often.”
A growing number of states have moved away from the use of isolation of
children, but the practice remains widespread.
In October 2015, the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at
Lowenstein Sandler released the findings of a nationwide survey
on the use of solitary confinement. According to the report, 21
jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., prohibit punitive isolation
in juvenile facilities by law or practice; 20 additional states impose
time-limits ranging from 6 hours to 90 days; and 10 either place no
limit or allow indefinite extensions via administrative approval. The
report identified Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming as being in the latter
States like Illinois
are among those that have most recently prohibited the punitive
isolation of juveniles. The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice
settled a lawsuit with the ACLU by agreeing to end punitive isolation
and providing educational and mental health programming for juveniles
separated from others.
Nebraska allows juveniles to be punitively isolated for much longer
periods of time than most states. Whereas Delaware and Idaho
respectively set a maximum period of isolation of 6 and 8 hours in a
24-hour period, Nebraska allows for up to seven days, and longer if
violence was involved. Wisconsin and California respectively allow up to
60 and 90 days of isolation.
Based on the experience of the many states that ban punitive isolation,
it is clear that isolation itself isn’t necessary, however convenient it
may be. A focus on engagement with juvenile offenders by way of
continued programming has been shown to yield beneficial outcomes.
For more information on the solitary confinement of juveniles, read our
on the issue.
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