Congress Passes Laws Limiting Youth Solitary

In December 2018, Congress took a huge step toward ending youth solitary by passing the First Step Act (FSA), S.3747, and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Action (JJDPA), H.R. 6964. In keeping with the recommendations of justice, mental health, and medical experts, the FSA prohibits federal facilities from using solitary as punishment and permits solitary only when youth behavior poses a risk of immediate physical harm that cannot otherwise be deescalated. Youth must be released as soon as they are calm and always within three hours. This language also tracks the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) Facility Assessment Standards.

The JJDPA incentivizes states to implement similar reforms. The Act requires state data on restraints and isolation, shedding light on what is too often a hidden problem. It also requires states to describe their strategies to reduce isolation, and provides federal training to support these goals. Critically, the JJDPA prohibits states from holding youth in adult jails, except in narrow circumstances. This will make a huge dent in the use of solitary confinement. Research by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU found that some jails hold 100% of youth in solitary to protect them from adult inmates.

Comments are closed.