A 16-year-old Shelby County girl has been held in solitary confinement since October 2017 – spending more than 22 hours alone in her cell each day with little-to-no human interaction for months on end. This is unacceptable.
Juveniles must be segregated from the adult inmate population. However, holding children in solitary confinement is not a solution. Rather than protecting them, solitary confinement has devastating consequences for young people’s social and psychological development.
For children exhibiting behavioral or mental health issues, solitary confinement can actually provoke or worsen these problems. Research shows that suicide rates for children in solitary confinement are far higher than for those held in general population.
Claims of insufficient facilities do not justify keeping a child in solitary confinement for months on end. The American Psychological Association has stated that, “A lack of resources should never be a rationale for solitary confinement.” Indeed, boys held in adult facilities in Shelby County are not subjected to solitary confinement and other counties have found ways to provide similar children with regular human interaction.