REPORT FINDS KIDS IN SOLITARY, CALLS FOR SYSTEM OVERHAUL (Jan. 2019)
The Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate released a scathing report on the conditions in state facilities for youth and called for a “massive overhaul” of the system. The report documented the use of pepper spray and solitary confinement for youth charged as adults held at the Manson Youth Institution as well as youth held in juvenile detention facilities operated by the Court Support Services Division.
CONNECTICUT LAW LIMITS SOLITARY FOR KIDS (July 2017)
In July 2017, Connecticut passed legislation, HB 7302, that limits the use of solitary confinement, especially for vulnerable populations, including young people. Under the bill, a “child” can be isolated only “as a temporary emergency response to a substantiated threat of imminent physical harm to correctional staff or other inmates.” Isolation may not exceed eight consecutive hours or 24 hours in a seven day period. After that time, staff must return the youth to the general population or consult with a qualified mental health professional to decide if the youth needs treatment at a mental health facility. Isolation should be used for the shortest amount of time reasonably possible and only after staff have attempted less restrictive alternatives. The law also requires staff to receive training on de-escalation and trauma and orders measures to ensure the health and well-being of staff. Connecticut statute § 46b-120 defines a child.
INSIDE THE BOX
In February 2017, the ACLU of Connecticut, The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and The Yale Undergraduate Prison Project laid important foundation for HB 7302 by educating legislators and the public on solitary confinement with Inside the Box. Inside the Box is a multi-faceted program operated by NRCAT to enable advocates to “experience, get educated, and become equipped to advocate.” Inside the Box was on display in three New Haven libraries and later the Connecticut state Capitol Building, where law makers were able to see and experience the true nature of solitary confinement. Inside the Box used NRCAT’s Replica Cell, a 10 x 12 replica solitary confinement cell accompanied by an audio track from an actual solitary confinement unit.