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Pivotal Point: Solitary Confinement Banned for Juveniles in Illinois

PHOTO: A federal court in Chicago recently approved a policy that bans the use of solitary confinement of juveniles held by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
PHOTO: A federal court in Chicago recently approved a policy that bans the use of solitary confinement of juveniles held by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
May 5, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The use of juvenile solitary confinement in Illinois will soon become a relic of the past. A federal judge has approved a new policy negotiated by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union that bans the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in the state.

Adam Schwartz, senior lawyer with the ACLU of Illinois, says solitary is one of the most abusive practices used in prisons in the United States.

"This practice is especially bad for juveniles who have growing minds and need to be engaged in social activity," says Schwartz. "All of the science shows that as bad as it is for adults it's even worse for juveniles."

Schwartz says ending solitary confinement marks a pivotal point for juvenile justice in Illinois and he commends the Department for taking steps he says will help kids in their custody.

Schwartz says the new confinement policy limits the circumstances when youths may be temporarily separated from the general population for purposes of safety.

"If someone is in the middle of a fight or if someone is suicidal, during the time of their separation they will continue to have regular human contact, they will continue to have their ordinary education and mental health services," he says.

The policy stems from a federal lawsuit. Schwartz says prior agreements between the ACLU and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice resulted in progress on other issues such as special education, individualized mental health services, and protection of LGBT youths.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL