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Solitary confinement puts juveniles at risk of mental illness

The natural instinct within most is to protect the young, teens included. When a teen is charged with or commits a crime, they still deserve protection. Every criminal suspect deserves protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

Juvenile justice advocates argue that child suspects and offenders should not be eligible for spending time in solitary confinement. Sitting in a dark, small, pit of a room all alone is an extreme condition for anyone. It can be life-changing for a mere teenager. The death of one Colorado juvenile supports that theory.

A 17-year-old was being kept in solitary confinement after being charged with vehicular homicide. The court decided to treat him as an adult from a trial standpoint, but not from an incarceration standpoint. Since his family couldn't afford bail, the teen stayed in the custody of law enforcement but away from any adults in the facility. That meant he lived in solitary confinement. He ultimately committed suicide before the case was ever completed.

His story serves as support for the human rights groups who passionately believe that solitary confinement is no place for juveniles. For safety reasons it is important to keep juveniles away from adults within correctional facilities. But is solitary confinement a safe alternative? Mental health professionals claim that such living conditions can lead to mental illness.

For juveniles in particular rehabilitation is a crucial and effective focus when they are faced with criminal charges. If solitary confinement does cause mental health problems, the system could just be putting another hardship before kids to overcome. That could prevent them from being successfully rehabilitated and lead them into a life of continuing legal struggles.

Our Colorado juvenile defense lawyers help children and their families avoid the serious consequences of a criminal accusation.

Source: NBC News, "Criminal justice system's 'dark secret': Teenagers in solitary confinement," March 22, 2013

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