There are a number of ways for attorneys to challenge solitary confinement. Read below to learn more about strategies for your practice, information about making your voice heard, and litigation.
RESOURCE: Unlocking Youth: Legal Strategies to End Solitary Confinement in Juvenile Facilities
This report by the Juvenile Law Center uses surveys of public defenders, conversations with youth and families, interviews with correctional administrators, and legal and psychological research to fill these gaps and set forth recommendations for reform.
Visit your state or local juvenile justice facility – if you don’t visit regularly – to learn more about practices and whether solitary is used. Talk to direct care staff, supervisors, case managers, mental and physical health professional, and your clients to learn if solitary is being used. Contact us for advice on this process.
Request data on the use of solitary confinement in state and local facilities that house youth. Reform work to end solitary confinement begins with a clear understanding of whether and how it is being used. You should also be sure to talk to your clients. They are a key source of information about what is actually happening inside facilities. Contact us or check out the Unlocking Youth report from the Juvenile Law Center described above.
Rely on best practice standards such as the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) Facility Standards and JDAI Strategies to Reduce Unnecessary Room Confinement. Cite the Standards in your practice and familiarize judges and facilities with them. If your jurisdiction is a JDAI site, this may be a point of leverage, as the standards strictly limit room confinement. Increasingly, the use of solitary goes against the accepted professional judgment, practice, and standards in the juvenile justice field.
Encourage facilities and stakeholders to adopt core strategies that have helped to reduce solitary confinement in other jurisdictions. If stakeholders are reluctant, find out clear reasons why. Attempting to address their particular concerns with data and examples from other states may help convince them. In many situations, facilities and staff are concerned that, without the threat of room confinement, youth will not obey commands or assault staff. Other facilities have found that, when done strategically and carefully, reducing room confinement does not increase violence.
Connect facility staff and administrators with resources to reduce solitary and information that facilities in other jurisdictions have limited solitary without jeopardizing facility safety. In fact, violence decreased in some states, including Ohio, Indiana, and Colorado.
Get judges invested in reducing solitary confinement. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges issued a resolution calling on judges to take an active roll in ending solitary confinement for youth and adopting a presumptive policy against the practice. Judges may be more likely to intervene if they consider solitary an abuse happening to youth on their watch or as a practice that prevents their court orders for youth to receive treatment, rehabilitation, and school.
Contact us and tell us what’s happening in your area.
Call State Legislators and Members of Congress and ask them to speak out against solitary confinement for kids and work to end the practice. You can use this sample call script and share it with clients and colleagues.