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JJI Urges Congress to Ban Solitary Confinement of Juveniles

Jun 19, 2012, Illinois Models for Change, Juvenile Justice Initiative

JJI Urges Congress to Ban Solitary Confinement of Juveniles

CHICAGO – The Juvenile Justice Initiative (JJI) of Illinois on Tuesday urged Congress to ban solitary confinement of juveniles.

Elizabeth Clarke, President of JJI, has submitted a statement to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Humans Rights, which will hold a hearing on the topic at 9 a.m. (CDT) Tuesday in Washington, DC. The hearing is focused on Reassessing Solitary Confinement, and the JJI written testimony focuses on the impact of solitary confinement on adolescents.

JJI is a non-partisan, non-profit juvenile justice advocacy organization, dedicated to the mission of decreasing reliance on confinement, enhancing fairness for youth, and developing a comprehensive continuum of community based resources for youth in conflict with the law.

The JJI testimony notes that West Virginia, Montana and Mississippi have recently banned the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities, in part based on court challenges noting the long-term deleterious impact on adolescents due to the sensitive stage of their brain and emotional development.

Officials in Illinois have committed to reducing the use of solitary confinement, but JJI noted that one caveat is that consistent with the elimination of the use of solitary confinement is the necessity to ensure staff are adequately trained in adolescent appropriate de-escalation techniques.

JJI also points out that the US does not comply with international standards for treatment of youth in conflict with the law, particularly the prohibition against inhumane treatment in Article 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Europe has adopted a set of rules for youth in conflict with the law, interpreting the meaning of treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition to stressing the need for humane facilities when youth are removed from home, these rules include a reminder that regular inspection and monitoring of are indispensable instruments of control to ensure humane treatment of youth, especially when particular attention is paid to the use of force, restraints, disciplinary punishments and other restrictive forms of treatment.

JJI asked Congress to encourage the states to end the use of solitary confinement in juvenile detention, jails and prisons. JJI also urged Congress to mandate that the states regularly inspect and monitor juvenile facilities and ensure staff in juvenile facilities are fully trained on appropriate discipline practices for adolescents.

For the text of JJI’s statement, go to JJI’s website (www.jjustice.org).

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