Colorado considering change to juvenile solitary confinement
How solitary confinement is handled in juvenile detention facilities is becoming a matter of national importance and is prompting the state of Colorado to reevaluate the practice. A recent lawsuit brought against a juvenile hall in another state claims that the use of solitary confinement is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The lawsuit comes after claims that a juvenile detention facility denied prisoners access to education while in solitary confinement — where some are held with no outside contact for up to 23 hours a day. Solitary confinement is used as a disciplinary tool for offenders who violate the rules of the facility, including those with disabilities. One plaintiff named in the suit was reportedly held in solitary for close to 200 days, at times with no access to education. The lawsuit claims that the probation department did not adequately investigate whether the incident that triggered the solitary confinement was disability related.
The U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice issued a statement in February, saying that all children have a right to public education, including those with disabilities and those who are in solitary confinement. This isn’t the first time that the practice is making the news, either. Solitary confinement has been under fire in recent years, with experts warning that it could cause those confined to develop mental illnesses or make existing ones worse.
States across the nation are taking another look at their solitary confinement practices, and the Senate also recently held its second hearing on the practice. Even in the case of a conviction and jail sentence, all of a youth’s rights do not disappear as soon as he or she is behind bars. A proper public education is crucial to an offender’s chance at rehabilitation and successfully reentering society, and if solitary confinement is found to interfere with that, changes are likely to be made.
Source: Color Lines, “Lawsuit: Juvenile Solitary Confinement Blocks Education” Julianne Hing, Mar. 03, 2014