We know that the confinement to one’s cell for days, months, and sometimes years can affect someone’s psychological stability. A less known practice is the use of solitary confinement for juveniles. Dr.
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Clark, the Director of Forensic Mental Health at Boston Medical Center, wrote the article Juvenile Solitary Confinement as a Form of Child Abuse which talks about the effects of solitary confinement on a child and the form of punishment counts as a form of child abuse. At the beginning of the paper, it stated that human rights organizations and health professionals have broadly condemned this practice. Nevertheless, the accumulating evidence that it might cause substantial psychological damage to the adolescents who must endure the confinement cannot be overlooked. The use of solitary confinement is still in practice in twenty states and all of the Canadian providences. (Dr. Clark) The root of this article is trying to reach the ethics challenges that the professionals have when their adolescent patients are in confinement; and mental stabilities that kids face while in their cells. The number of juveniles incarcerated in the United States on a constant basis is approximately 54,000.
These juveniles are located through the legal system in local, county, state, and federal facilities. The data available showing the segregation in these different facilities is much less than compared to adult prisoners as is the emotional consequences endured by individual teenage inmates. (Dr. Clark) The act of putting incarcerated teenage prisoners into solitary confinement for extended lengths of time is a process that is still commonplace all over much of the United States and Canada despite the controversies surrounding the practice. The act of confinement usually indicates the placing of the teenager by themselves in a small cell for a time period of usually 22 to 24 hours a day. It also involves limited contact with staff and peers, limited or restricted family visits, and the lack of social interaction by means of minimized reading material, radio, or television. The use of solitary confinement is usually limited to issues involving discipline, administrative, or personal protection.
In some cases, it is believed that it is a necessary means for combating troublesome behavior and securing discipline and safety inside the detention facility. Based on the definition of the practices inflicted on teens who are placed in these types of conditions, I would say that yes, the prison system is committing child abuse. My opinion, according to the child abuse wheel, isolation from social contact from others is abuse and is also considered child neglect. (Domestic Abuse Intervention Project) The characteristics or personal attributes of the juvenile inmates in the doctor’s paper may explain why the selected adolescents received this harsh punishment while in prison. One idea that could explain the support for juveniles in solitary confinement is there are certain inmates who were considered a super predator, the worst inmates in the prison. (Dr. Clark) I believe the labeling of the juveniles as super predators may lead to self-identifying.
Also the behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them which could lead to the act that will place them in solitary incarceration for a long time. The impact of solitary confinement on juvenile’s mental state, according to Dr. Clark, For those who understand solitary confinement to be a stressful experience, it is generally thought that juveniles, by virtue of their immaturity, are not as well equipped as adults to withstand the rigors of such conditions. It stands to reason, then, that if adults are at risk of sustaining severe psychological damage as a result of such isolation, juveniles are even more likely to suffer harm. (Dr. Clark) I have to agree with the quote because the brain does not fully develop until people are in their twenties. Another issue that this article brought up for me is the eighth amendment. The question that needs to be asked is does isolated confinement violate the part of the amendment that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment? The paper brought up three milestone cases that are vital in the juvenile justice system, Roper v. Simmons (2005), Graham v. Florida (2010), and Miller v. Alabama (2012). According to Dr. Clark’s article, the Courts recognized the immaturity of the adolescent brain. In the paper, Clark gave empirical research on the youth in solitary confinement that was conducted by Lindsay Hayes.
In the survey conducted by Ms. Hayes, out of 100 of the suicides committed in juvenile detention facilities, only 50 of those were committed during the time of being placed in solitary confinement. (Hayes) In 2016, recommendations were enacted by President Obama received from the Department o Justice which banned the use of solitary confinement in federally ran facilities. The reason for this is due to the likelihood of overwhelming and potentially permanent mental results. In addition, many states have banned or limited the use of solitary confinement for disciplinary reasons through the years while maintaining the preference of using segregation for administration purposes. A 2016 survey, taken by 29 states or jurisdictions which have banned juvenile solitary confinement for punishment, 15 enacted some types of limitations on the practice by limiting the time of confinement to only three to five days. Seven of these states and/or jurisdictions did not have any restrictions or limitations in place or allowed continuous extensions without any types of approval from administration. The solitary confinement of juveniles used in the correctional facilities today, which is condemned by professional and humanitarian rights organizations, I agree that this type of punishment is a form of child abuse. From my understanding after reading this article, the nation’s prison system needs an overhaul with mental health programs for the youth in prisons.
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