Advocates Urge Ban On Youth Solitary Confinement

By Phil Gregory, WBGO News
Trenton. July 15, 2013

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Advocates hold news conference outside Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton (photo by Phil Gregory)

Nine civil rights and children’s groups are asking New Jersey to stop using solitary confinement to punish youth.

Sandra Simkins with the Children’s Justice Clinic at Rutgers, says juvenile offenders in state and county detention facilities can be locked up in a small room for just about anything.

 “Solitary is the go-to response for any rule violation and implementation is completely arbitrary. So cursing or obscene language can get you four hours or four days. It seems to depend on the guard.”

Alexander Shalom with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey says putting children in solitary damages their social and psychological development.

  “Adolescents are especially sensitive to the serous harms that result from being deprived of normal human contact. These harms make it harder for the Juvenile Justice Commission to achieve its mission to help youthful offenders rehabilitate themselves and reintegrate into our communities.”

 The state has agreed to discuss the complaint and could make a decision within 60 days about changing its rules.

Five states now ban solitary confinement of juvenile offenders and legislation to end it is pending in six others.



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