10 States Are Throwing Children In Solitary Confinement Indefinitely

Joe Durbin
This is not the way to help children find a better life. This is just a lazy solution born from an overpopulated prison system.

Solitary confinement is an important, if often overlooked, point in the ongoing conversation concerning the ethical treatment of prisoners in the United States. 

Solitary confinement is the process of isolating an individual from all human contact for up to 24 hours, and it has been receiving increased attention from lawmakers in recent years.

Now, according to The Huffington Post, a new wrinkle has developed for an issue that already has far too many.

“Ten states allow children in juvenile detention centers to be punished with solitary confinement indefinitely, according to a new report released by the pro bono program at the law firm Lowenstein Sandler,” wrote Dana Liebelson on Monday morning.

Liebelson goes on to say that, “Of the twenty-one states that prohibit the practice, most still allow kids to be isolated for reasons other than punishment.”

The 10 states that allow for indefinite solitary confinement are Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

Solitary confinement for juveniles has been in  a state of reform for the past few years. In 2014, for example, the U.S. Justice Department took steps to heavily curb the practice in the state of Ohio.

While it may not seem that isolating someone for a time could be all that damaging, the Lowenstein Sandler report explains that the effects of prolonged solitude on children can be particularly damaging.

“Solitary confinement has a distinct and particularly profound impact on young people, often doing serious damage to their development and psychological and physical wellbeing. Because of the special vulnerability and needs of adolescents, solitary confinement can be a particularly cruel and harmful practice when applied to them,” said the report.

The United States prison system is already in desperate need of reform for its unnerving overpopulation, but this study is a good reminder that it could also do with some changes to its practices and procedures as well.

One would hope that those in charge of these juvenile reformatories would be able to find better ways to care for and rehabilitate their young charges than locking them away in dark rooms.

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A Children’s prison should not be a place where kids are sent to stew in isolation.  It needs to be a place where the governments and staff in charge are committed to forging new paths not devising new punishments.

Until we reach that point this system will continue to be more destructive than constructive for these children’s futures.

Banner Image Credit: Samantha Marx on Flickr