Teenagers are not adults. Anyone who spends time with teens knows this. They may be as big as adults or as strong or otherwise physically appear just like an adult, but they’re not. That’s why we have some different rules for teens than adults – because they’re fundamentally different.
The conversation about incarceration, police brutality and other justice issues in America is long overdue and is starting to get more people’s attention every day. Teenagers have been victims of poor enforcement and injustice and one practice must stop immediately: putting teens in solitary confinement.
In a Washington Post here, Ian M. Kysel, an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center and the Dash/Muse Fellow at its Human Rights Institute, explains that solitary confinement for teens often leads to teens “losing control while in solitary, about harming themselves and even attempting suicide.”
Teens are placed in solitary confinement in small rooms to separate them from the adult prison population or for punishment. Teens with mental health problems and those who do not often begin self harming or turning their thoughts to death as the only means of escape.
One of the most striking portions of the article explains:
“In an investigation I did for Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, I found adult facilities that subjected all children there to solitary confinement, to protect them, and facilities that placed 10 percent or more of young people in solitary to punish them (using DOJ data, we estimated that in each year between 2006 and 2011, close to 100,000 children were held in adult jails and prisons). According to a Justice Department investigation, between March 2012 and November 2013, the Rikers Island jail sentenced 3,158 young prisoners, ages 16-18, to a total of 143,823 days in solitary confinement (that is, just of 45 days on average, though some spent hundreds of days in isolation).”
Reforms are happening in some states to ban prisons from placing adolescents and children in solitary confinement, but the changes cannot come fast enough.