Board Members Call for Reform in Solitary Confinement for Juveniles

Posted Apr 25, 2016

Given the high risk of harm caused by solitary confinement, especially for juveniles, the practice should be curtailed, according to a guest editorial written by NCCHC board members Kevin Fiscella, MD, MPH, and Robert Morris, MD, CCHP-P. The editorial appears in the Spring 2016 issue of CorrectCare®.

The editorial reports that restrictive housing (aka solitary confinement) is widely employed in jails and prisons, including segregation lasting 30 days or more. In adult facilities, youths under age 20 have the highest rates of placement in restrictive housing. However, studies show that duration of time in such housing is associated with higher rates of psychological distress and psychiatric disorders, as well as self-harm. Furthermore, there is little evidence that this practice reduces disciplinary problems or improves facility security. 

The United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty explicitly prohibit restrictive housing for juveniles in correctional facilities. This resolution was supported by the United States and endorsed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Fiscella and Morris describe viable alternatives to restrictive housing, such as special programming, and call for the adoption of policies that reduce or discontinue the use of seclusion.

Fiscella serves as liaison of the American Society of Addiction Medicine on the NCCHC board of directors; Morris serves as liaison of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. 

The guest editorial is titled Restrictive Housing for Juveniles: Punitive, Not Rehabilitative.