President Obama Bans Solitary Confinement of Youth in Federal Prisons

Posted January 26, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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The Casey Foun­da­tion has been work­ing with a grow­ing coali­tion in urg­ing all facil­i­ties hous­ing chil­dren to end the prac­tice of soli­tary con­fine­ment because it can severe­ly dam­age youth and inhib­it their future suc­cess. Pres­i­dent Obama’s deci­sion this week to ban the prac­tice of hold­ing young peo­ple in soli­tary con­fine­ment in fed­er­al pris­ons makes sig­nif­i­cant progress in elim­i­nat­ing this inhu­mane prac­tice for young people.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s deci­sion fol­lows sim­i­lar actions at the state lev­el, where there is a move­ment to sharply lim­it or end the use of soli­tary con­fine­ment. With the Foundation’s sup­port, state and local juve­nile facil­i­ty admin­is­tra­tors have joined forces with a vari­ety of orga­ni­za­tions and advo­cates in a nation­al cam­paign to end this prac­tice for youth.

Soli­tary con­fine­ment doesn’t make us safer,” Pres­i­dent Oba­ma wrote in The Wash­ing­ton Post. It’s an affront to our com­mon human­i­ty.” The Pres­i­dent cit­ed research that soli­tary con­fine­ment has the poten­tial to lead to dev­as­tat­ing, last­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal con­se­quences, includ­ing depres­sion, alien­ation and suicide.

The Casey Foun­da­tion is ded­i­cat­ed to work­ing with juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems around the coun­try to improve con­di­tions in juve­nile deten­tion and cor­rec­tions facil­i­ties and set stan­dards that ensure that youth are safe. These stan­dards strict­ly reg­u­late and lim­it all forms of iso­la­tion. Specif­i­cal­ly, they pro­hib­it the use of room con­fine­ment for dis­ci­pline, pun­ish­ment, admin­is­tra­tive con­ve­nience, retal­i­a­tion, staffing short­ages or rea­sons oth­er than as tem­po­rary response to behav­ior that threat­ens imme­di­ate harm to a youth or oth­ers. The Casey Foundation’s resources and tools relat­ed to end­ing soli­tary con­fine­ment are free down­loads and avail­able to all facil­i­ty administrators.

The promise of the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem to help young peo­ple remake their lives can­not be real­ized if youth are exposed to harm­ful con­di­tions such as soli­tary con­fine­ment. The Foun­da­tion believes that our jus­tice sys­tem should hold youth account­able in ways that rec­og­nize young people’s capac­i­ty for change and match their devel­op­men­tal stage. It should offer ser­vices for youth that focus on oppor­tu­ni­ties, resources and coach­ing so that youth can devel­op the com­pe­ten­cies they need to become pro­duc­tive adults.

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma called the Unit­ed States a nation of sec­ond chances, but pro­claimed that the expe­ri­ence of soli­tary con­fine­ment too often under­cuts that sec­ond chance. In Amer­i­ca, we believe in redemp­tion,” the Pres­i­dent wrote. We believe that when peo­ple make mis­takes, they deserve the oppor­tu­ni­ty to remake their lives.”

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