Bill would ban solitary confinement in juvy
Lawmakers want to ban the use of solitary confinement for juveniles held in federal pretrial facilities and detention centers.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced the Maintaining dignity and Eliminating unnecessary Restrictive Confinement of Youths, or MERCY Act, on Wednesday.
The bill prohibits a juvenile from being held in room confinement unless temporary for his or her own safety. The legislation stipulates that a juvenile can only be held in solitary confinement for a minimum amount of time necessary to address the risk.
Juveniles who pose a risk to others would only be able to be held for up to three hours, and juveniles who pose a risk to themselves would only be able to be held for a half hour.
After the time limits expire, the bill mandates that juvenile be transferred to a facility where services can be provided.
“Not only is solitary confinement cruel and demeaning, it’s a violation of one’s human dignity. When imposed on adolescents, it can cause serious long-term psychological and physical harm,” Booker said in a news release.
In 2013, the Department of Justice found that 47 percent of juvenile detention centers locked youth in solitary confinement for more than four hours at a time, and some held youth for up to 23 hours a day with no human interaction.
Because youth under 18 are still developing, lawmakers say solitary confinement can seriously harm their mental and physical health, as well as their development.
“If we truly want our criminal justice system to reflect our founding principles as a nation of liberty and justice for all, we must promote a more compassionate, common sense approach to rehabilitation that helps restore promise in our young people,” Durbin said.
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