(Case No. 3-16-0799, United States District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, Judge Campbell)
ACLU-TN Cooperating Attorneys: Mark Downton and Wesley Clark of Downton Clark, PLLC
Plaintiffs: John Doe, By and through his Mother Sharieka Frazier
Defendants: Tennessee Department of Children’s Services; Bonnie Hommrich, Commissioner of Department of Children’s Services; Rutherford County, Tennessee; Lynn Duke, Director of Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Facility; Angela Istvanditsch, Officer with Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Facility
On April 28, 2016, ACLU-TN joined a lawsuit challenging the use of extended solitary confinement for juveniles, particularly for pretrial detainees and children who suffer from mental illness. The federal lawsuit was filed on April 25, 2016 by ACLU-TN cooperating attorneys Mark Downton and Wesley Clark on behalf of a 15-year-old pretrial detainee who was held in solitary confinement for several days at the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Facility — a practice which can be psychologically shattering for young people.
The lawsuit was filed after the detention facility ordered that the boy be held in isolation in a concrete cell for 23 hours a day, with only one hour of recreation or leisure time. For the first two days he was denied access to books, magazines, music, and other educational or recreational materials. The boy had been placed in solitary confinement because he had allegedly disrupted a classroom, “hollered,” “rapped,” and “flashed gang symbols.” The boy was never alleged to be a danger to himself or others.
ACLU-TN seeks to stop the use of solitary confinement for punitive or disciplinary reasons permanently both for the boy in this case as well as for other juveniles in pretrial detention or who suffer from mental illness. To that end, the lawsuit was amended to create a class action, seeking to ban the use of solitary confinement to punish children who are in the state’s custody or held in county detention facilities licensed by the state.
The case is pending.
ACLU-TN Joins Lawsuit Challenging Solitary Confinement of Youth (April 28, 2016)
Doe v. Hommrich, et al. – Complaint (April 25, 2016)
Doe v. Hommrich, et al. – Amended Complaint (May 18, 2016)