Putting young prisoners in solitary confinement greatly increases the risk that they’ll commit suicide. With that as a backdrop, a North Florida legislator is pushing legislation that would prevent the Florida Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice from holding anyone younger than 19 in solitary confinement – except under limited circumstances.
Sponsored by state Senator Bill Montford, the bill says prisoners younger than 19 could only be held in solitary confinement in an emergency or if they need to be isolated for medical reasons.
Scott McCoy with the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Center says solitary confinement for young prisoners is “an incredibly dangerous practice.”
“Among incarcerated youth who commit suicide, 62 percent of them have been held in solitary confinement,” McCoy said.
Karina Flores is a student at the College of Law at Florida State University. She blasted current state law, which imposes no limits on how long a child can stay in solitary confinement in Florida.
“Studies show confinement causes children to have severe mental health issues, which include depression, paranoia, increased risk of self-harm, and suicide,” she said.
“It is beyond time for Florida to end this cruel, counterproductive practice,” added Kirk Bailey, political director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida in a statement. “It is costly. It must stop.”
Montford’s bill is one of a number of measures filed this year in the Legislature that would eliminate solitary confinement. State House Rep. Ramon Alexander, Democrat from Leon County, has filed a similar bill in the House. And there are two other bills in the Senate that address solitary confinement: A proposal by Senator Gary Farmer, a Democrat from Broward County and similar proposal by Senator Perry Thurston, a Broward County Democrat.