Too Many Youth Subjected to Solitary Confinement in Juvenile and Adult Facilities
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) has released its resolution on reducing the use of solitary confinement for youth. No research exists that indicates solitary confinement reduces behavioral incidents or improves the safety of facilities. The NCJFCJ recognizes that juvenile court judges have a responsibility to care for and protect youth within their jurisdiction and therefore supports a presumptive rule or policy against solitary confinement of youth, except when absolutely necessary for the safety of the youth, others or the facility.
The NCJFCJ recognizes that there are some circumstances in which room confinement is necessary and that it is reasonable and appropriate when de-escalation and other strategies have been ineffective. However, many youth in solitary do not receive appropriate education, mental health services or drug treatment.
“I am excited that the NCJFCJ Board of Directors passed this resolution reducing the use of solitary confinement for youth within our juvenile justice systems,“ said, Dr. Michael E. Noyes, NCJFCJ chief program officer for juvenile law. “Routine seclusion is profoundly detrimental and promotes long term harm, and accounts for more than half of all suicides in juvenile facilities. The NCJFCJ Board of Directors continues to stand firmly at the center of juvenile justice reform by continuing their professional articulation of their support for trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate approaches to juvenile justice.”
The NCJFCJ calls for judges to provide strong leadership on this issue to convene facility personnel and other justice system stakeholders to develop strategies to reduce the use of solitary confinement in detention centers and post-adjudication residential placement facilities and to work together to identify ways to ensure the safety of youth and other parties.
The NCJFCJ encourages judges to be aware of the policies and procedures regarding the use of solitary confinement in facilities they do not have control over, but in which youth under their jurisdiction have been placed. The NCJFCJ encourages judges and court systems to continually review policies and practices related to solitary confinement of youth.
“Resolutions by the NCJFCJ are one way juvenile and family court judges across the nation can unite and speak on important issues that face our children and families involved in the court system,” said Judge Katherine Tennyson, NCJFCJ president. “Although there are circumstances where confinement is necessary, research has shown that solitary confinement for youth with unaddressed mental health, behavioral, or developmental needs can cause permanent harm to the teen’s physical, psychological and social growth, and well-being. Adolescents are not adults and need all the support we know how to provide in order to help them mature into healthy adults who can positively contribute to our communities. I am proud of our Board of Directors for passing this policy as it represents a major advance in trauma-informed justice and will give our members and others a cogent argument as we all work to achieve the ultimate goal of juvenile justice – rehabilitation.”
The NCJFCJ also recently released a resolution on judicial training on adolescent brain development. Incorporating adolescent brain research into judicial decisions supports the NCJFCJ’s stance that the complex knowledge, skills and qualities needed by juvenile and family court judges is necessary to fulfill their problem-solving role in assisting juveniles in court.
About the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ):
Founded in 1937, the Reno, Nev.-based National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, is the nation’s oldest judicial membership organization and focused on improving the effectiveness of our nation’s juvenile and family courts. A leader in continuing education opportunities, research, and policy development in the field of juvenile and family justice, the 2,000-member organization is unique in providing practice-based resources to jurisdictions and communities nationwide.