Ending the Use of Isolation in Youth Detention and Correctional facilities

Posted by Edward Loughran
July 06, 2016

Is it possible to end the use of isolation for punishment and administrative convenience in youth detention and correctional facilities in the next three years? The Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA) answers emphatically, yes and is committed to doing just that!

Ever since Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) administrator Robert Listenbee met with the CJCA Board of Directors in his first session with us in August 2013 and delivered the challenge “if not isolation, then what”, we have responded to his urging.

We chose “Reducing the Use of Isolation” as the theme of our Second Leadership Institute in 2014, which featured a keynote address by Administrator Listenbee, panel discussions, breakout groups and a meeting concluding roundtable on the controversial  topic (not everyone was ready to end punitive isolation for misdeeds). In 2015, CJCA created a Toolkit for Reducing the Use of Isolation, a publication intended to guide youth correctional administrators and their directors of institutions and secure facilities in changing cultures that rely on isolation as a behavior management tool.

CJCA, one of the three organizations chosen by OJJDP to operate the Center for Coordinated Assistance to States (CCAS), has used its portion of the grant to give training and technical assistance (TTA) to two cohorts of state and county juvenile justice systems. Cohort 1: CA Div. of Juvenile Justice, GA Dept. of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), MN Red Wing facility, NE Office of Juvenile Services, NV Div. of Child and Family Services, SC DJJ, WA Greenhill School and WV Div. of Juvenile Services. Cohort 2: AK Div. of Juvenile Justice, Los Angeles County Probation Dept., Maricopa County Probation Dept., MS Div. of Youth Services, MT Youth Services Div. and Siskyou County Probation Dept.

CJCA is releasing two issue briefs this week.  The first brief chronicles the effort and results of its TTA work with the first cohort and the second brief offers tangible alternatives (tools) to the use of isolation.

The Crime Report, an online criminal justice resource from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, recently published and OP-ED piece I wrote on ending solitary for youth.

More than a year ago, CJCA joined the Children’s Center for Law and Policy (CCLP), the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University (CJJR) and Justice Policy Institute (JPI) to plan and lead a campaign to end the solitary confinement of youth, launched this spring as the Stop Solitary Confinement for Youth (SSK) Campaign The Campaign has several proposals for resourcing the three-year campaign under review at philanthropic foundations.  To date more than thirty national organizations such as the American Correctional Association, American Psychological Association and the Performance-based Standards Learning Institute (PbS LI) have signed on in support of the Campaign. The Campaign will provide support to state and local agencies that desire to reduce the use of isolation. A work-plan from the Campaign is forthcoming.

On June 24th, OJJDP held a Convening: “Eliminating the Use of Solitary Confinement in Juvenile Justice Facilities: A Multi-systemic Approach” for more than 60 juvenile justice professionals from across the country (OP-ED piece by Bob Listenbee). Karol Mason, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, opened the proceedings with an exhortation to end the use of solitary. Kim Godfrey, Executive Director, PbS LI and Reena Kapoor, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine began the day’s presentations with a review of data and research on Juvenile Solitary Confinement. Before lunch, everyone formed into breakout groups to discuss questions posed by OJJDP regarding the guiding principles of the U.S. Department of Justice Report on Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing and ways they can be applied to juvenile justice facilities. In one of the afternoon sessions. Roy Austin, Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity, facilitated a panel discussion “What’s Working” that featured three CJCA administrators: Fariborz Pakseresht (OR), Colin O’Neil (ME) and Harvey Reed (OH). Each described his perspective on effective practices to reduce the use of solitary confinement in facilities in his respective jurisdiction.

On Jan. 25, 2016, President Obama wrote an Opinion piece in the Washington Post urging the criminal and juvenile justice systems to rethink the use of solitary confinement after citing its destructive effects on young offenders, especially those with mental health problems. A day later, he followed up and banned the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Although his ban does not affect juveniles in locally run pre-trial detention centers or long-term youth correctional facilities, he appealed to those system’s leaders to end the use of solitary confinement.

CJCA, more than any other organization in the country, has the ability and capacity to end solitary/ isolation for youths in state youth correctional systems!