Juvenile Justice Stop Solitary Confinement Act

Summary: The Juvenile Justice Stop Solitary Confinement Act would strictly limit the use of solitary confinement in juvenile justice facilities and establish reporting and training requirements in regards to this practice.

NOTE: This model is based on the ACLU’s Juvenile Justice Stop Solitary Act. Download their original here.

Section 1. SHORT TITLE

This Act may be cited as the “Juvenile Justice Stop Solitary Confinement Act.”


(A) FINDINGS—The legislature finds that:

1)      In the United States, juvenile justice facilities utilize solitary confinement for punitive, protective, administrative, or retaliatory reasons.

2)      Juveniles are kept in extreme isolation for long stretches of time, which increases the risk of self-harm, suicide, and exacerbate mental health conditions.

3)      The effects of confinement constitute inhumane treatment.

4)      Using Isolation for anything other than a short cool-down period serves no valuable correctional purpose.

5)      At the end of January, President Obama announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, and the state has taken the message from the President to address this issue on the state level.

6)      Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, Oklahoma, and West Virginia already have laws that address the use of solitary confinement for juveniles.

7)      Missouri, New York, and Massachusetts have also implemented administrative reforms in the juvenile justice facilities.

(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to improve the administration of juvenile justice and ultimately enhance public safety.


After Section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:

(A) DEFINITIONS—In this section:

1)      “Juvenile” means a person younger than 18 years of age.

2)      “Juvenile facility” means a residential facility housing youth under the supervision of the State Juvenile Justice Agency and/or County Board

3)      “Room confinement” means the involuntary restriction of a juvenile alone in a cell, room, or other area, including the juvenile’s own room, except during normal sleeping hours.

[Bill drafting note:  “Room Confinement” is a common term for the isolation of youth in the juvenile justice context, but terminology differs from state to state.]

(B) LIMITATIONS ON ROOM CONFINEMENT—A juvenile shall not be placed in room confinement for any of the following reasons:

1)      As a punishment or disciplinary sanction;

2)      For the purposes of convenience to facility administrators or staff or due to staffing shortages;

3)      For the purposes of retaliation by staff;

4)      For the purposes of protection, except as permitted under Section C; or

5)      Or any reason other than those permitted under Section C.


1)      A juvenile shall not be subject to room confinement unless all other less-restrictive options have been exhausted, and:

a)      The juvenile poses an immediate and substantial risk of harm to oneself or to others and is out of control; or

b)      Room confinement is necessary for the juvenile’s own safety and protection.

2)      A juvenile may only be held in room confinement in accordance with the following:

a)      The juvenile shall not be held in room confinement longer than the minimum time required to address the safety risk.

b)      The juvenile shall only be held in room confinement for a period that does not compromise the mental and physical health of the juvenile. Staff shall not place youth in room confinement for a fixed period of time.

c)      As soon as the safety risk is resolved, the juvenile shall be released from room confinement.

d)      In all cases, a juvenile shall not remain in room confinement in excess of four hours. After four hours, staff shall return the youth to the general population, or consult with a qualified mental health professional to determine whether further treatment at a mental health facility is necessary.

e)      Room confinement shall not be used for consecutive periods of time.

f)       The juvenile shall not be placed in room confinement for more than 12 hours in a one-week period without the written approval of the Director of Juvenile Justice. Written approval shall be required for each 12-hour period thereafter.

g)      All rooms used for room confinement shall have at least 80 square feet of floor space, and shall have adequate and operating lighting, heating/cooling, and ventilation for the comfort of the juvenile. Rooms must be clean, suicide-resistant, and protrusion-free. Juveniles in room confinement for any period of time must have access to water, toilet facilities, and hygiene supplies.

h)      Juveniles in room confinement shall have access to the same meals and drinking water, contact with parents and legal guardians, and legal assistance as is provided to juveniles in the general population, as well as access to educational programming and reading materials approved by a licensed mental health clinician.

i)        Juveniles in room confinement shall have access to appropriate medial and mental health services. If the juvenile appears in need of mental health services, mental health staff shall promptly visit the juvenile and provide all necessary treatment.

j)        Juveniles in room confinement shall be continuously monitored by staff.

[Bill drafting note: You may choose to modify/increase the 4-hour cap.]


1)      Room confinement of a juvenile for longer than 1 hour shall be approved by a supervisor and documented in writing. Room confinement of a juvenile for longer than 2 hours shall be approved by the director of the juvenile facility and documented in writing. Room confinement of a juvenile for longer than 3 hours shall be approved by both the director of the juvenile facility and the state/local/county juvenile justice administrator and documented in writing.

2)      This documentation must include the date of the occurrence, the race, ethnicity, age, and gender of the juvenile, the reason for placement in room confinement, an explanation of why less restrictive means were unsuccessful, the ultimate duration of the placement in room confinement, and documentation of any incidents of self-harm or suicide that occurred while the youth was isolated.

3)      If any health or mental health clinical evaluations are performed during the time the juvenile was in room confinement for longer than 1 hour, the results of the these evaluations shall be considered in any decision to place a juvenile in room confinement or to continue room confinement.

4)      Any facility for the detention of juveniles shall report monthly to the [State Juvenile Justice Agency] the number of juveniles who were subjected to room confinement during that month and the length of time that each juvenile was in room confinement, along with the youth’s race, ethnicity, age, gender, and the reason for the confinement.

5)      Any room confinement of a juvenile for over 4 hours is a violation of Section C above and must be documented and addressed in a monthly report to the state legislature, and the report must include all reasons why attempts to return the juvenile to the general population of the facility were unsuccessful, and must detail corrective measures taken to secure future compliance with this law.

6)      The [State Juvenile Justice Agency] shall review all data collected pursuant to this Section in order to assess the use of room confinement for juveniles in each facility and prepare an annual report of its findings, including but not limited to identifying changes in policy and practice which may lead to decreased use of such confinement. This report shall be given formally and publicly to the state legislature on an annual basis.

[Bill drafting note: You may consider certain reporting alternatives, which are less extensive while still imposing measures of accountability on officials]


1)      The Director of Juvenile Justice shall review all existing policies relating to juveniles held in room confinement or its equivalent and revise those policies as necessary to conform to this section within 90 days of the effective date. The [State/local juvenile justice commission/agency] shall promulgate such regulations as are necessary to implement this section.

2)      Nothing in this section shall be construed to conflict with any law providing greater or additional protections to juveniles in [State].


1)      The [State and local juvenile justice commissions/agencies] shall ensure that training for all juvenile program officers and other department staff who work in facilities housing juveniles, shall include at least 40 hours of initial training and 16 hours of annual training about:

a)      Adolescent development;

b)      The value of positive over negative reinforcement in dealing with juveniles and methods of implementing positive behavior incentives;

c)      The health and behavioral effects of room confinement on human beings generally and juveniles in particular;

d)      Effective de-escalation techniques to use with juveniles;

e)      The signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and other significant mental impairments;

f)       How to effectively and safely manage juveniles with mental illness or with other mental or intellectual disabilities;

g)      The need to utilize medications only as appropriate for juveniles, recognition of mental health emergencies and adverse reactions to psychotropic medication, and specific instructions on contacting the appropriate professional care provider and on taking other appropriate action;

h)      Suicide potential and prevention for juveniles; and

i)        Any additional training on correctional care and custody of juveniles with mental illness or other significant mental impairments, and related topics on an ongoing basis as community standards of care change, or as otherwise deemed appropriate.


The provisions of this Act shall be severable, and if any phrase, clause, sentence, or provision is declared to be invalid or is preempted by federal law or regulation, the validity of the remainder of this Act shall not be affected.


This Act shall take effect on XXXX 1, 2016.