[Pnews] Children Held in Solitary Confinement in Nebraska for Days, Weeks, Even Months

Prisoner News 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
    for youth.
  * Limiting solitary confinement to a last-resort and for no more than
    4 hours.
  * 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 
fact sheet 
on the issue.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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