Tamar R. Birckhead (University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill – School of Law) has posted Children in Isolation: The Solitary Confinement of Youth (Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1, 2015, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Every day in prison settings around the world, young people are held in solitary confinement. They are alone for up to twenty-three hours a day in unfurnished cells. They do not see, have physical contact with, or speak to other people. The cells are small, often no larger than a horse’s stable, and are illuminated by artificial light. Food is passed through narrow openings in heavy metal doors. These adolescents are denied education, counseling, and other services that are necessary for their growth, rehabilitation and well-being. If a parent were to confine her child under similar conditions, it would be abuse; yet when the government does so, often for weeks and months without due process, it is condoned.
The paradox of solitary confinement is that it is not reserved only for the most culpable offenders. Juvenile and immigration detention centers as well as adult jails and prisons place adolescents in isolation to protect them — arguably — from each other or from adults; when they are perceived to be a threat; and to punish them for misconduct and rule-breaking. These rationales for the solitary confinement of youth fail to recognize, however, that prolonged isolation harms young people in ways that are often more profound than its impact on adults.
This Article is the first to provide a comprehensive comparative analysis of the solitary confinement of youth in the United States and across the globe.