Attorney General Slams Overuse Of Solitary Confinement For Mentally Ill Juveniles

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Attorney General Eric Holder released a video on the U.S. Department of Justice’s homepage Wednesday demanding the end of excessive solitary confinement for young detainees who suffer with mental illness. Holder warned that the practice of confining the juvenile prisoners can have lasting harm and impair their ability to reintegrate into society upon release.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has been active in assistance the Department in curbing these instances of excessive solitary confinement. With these centers violating the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), the division has been focusing on obtaining a federal court order that temporarily barred the Ohio Department of Youth Services from placing boys with mental health concerns in seclusion inside its facilities.

The division also filed a statement of interest regarding excessive solitary confinement practices on disabled youth in Contra Costa County, Calif. According to reports, these young persons were held in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day without any human interaction at all.

Text taken from Attorney General Holder’s video address:

“This practice is particularly detrimental to young people with disabilities –- who are at increased risk under these circumstances of negative effects including self-harm and even suicide. In fact, one national study found that half of the victims of suicides in juvenile facilities were in isolation at the time they took their own lives, and 62 percent of victims had a history of solitary confinement.

“Let me be clear, there may be times when it becomes necessary to remove a detained juvenile from others in order to protect staff, other inmates, or the juvenile himself from harm. However, this action should be taken only in a limited way where there is a valid reason to do so, and for a limited amount of time; isolated juveniles must be closely monitored, and every attempt must be made to continue educational and mental health programming while the youth is in isolation.

“At a minimum, we must work to curb the over-reliance on seclusion of youth with disabilities. And at the Department of Justice, we are committed to working with states to do this going forward.

To watch Attorney General Holder’s video in full, click here.

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