Research shows putting young prisoners in solitary confinement is dangerous. Some lawmakers want to ban the practice

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.

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Ridiculous! Why doesn’t Karina flores go work in a prison and see what the Correctional Officers have to deal with in handling these inmates. At 18 yoa a person is considered an adult. These “young offenders” are some of the worst criminals Officers have to deal with. Putting them in solitary confinement is because they can’t even live in general population inside the prison, that’s how bad some of them are. And then the legislators wonder why they can’t staff our prisons and the wardens have to run them at critical staffing every single day.

  2. Sharon, it’s clear that you think Solitary Confinement should be used when prisons don’t know what else to do with an incarcerated person. You claim the juveniles/minors (we’re not just talking 18, we’re talking as young as 12) are “some of the worst criminals” which is unfounded and categorically untrue. In fact, science shows us that younger people are very amenable to rehabilitation and go on to lead full, meaningful lives that contribute to society. But if put in Solitary Confinement, instead develop mental issues, suicidal tendencies, inability to hold down jobs or relationships … who would you rather have released into your community? To me it’s a no brainer. The one who had the chance to be rehabilitated and lead a full, productive life. That’s who I want as my neighbor.

    -Stole $1 and a hat, 20 years in solitary: https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/01/11/anthony-gay-solitary-confinement
    -Found a checkbook on the side of the road and tried to buy a school lunch with it; went to an adult prison/put in Solitary Confinement, developed mental issues and committed suicide: https://www.tallahassee.com/story/opinion/2018/02/06/opinion-end-harmful-solitary-confinement-children/310406002/
    -Shot father’s girlfriend (thought she was their father, who let their uncle sexually abuse them): https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/07/28/young-killer-released-prison/30777929/
    -Stole money from grandparents to go to Disney: https://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/10/magazine/the-maximum-security-adolescent.html
    -Allegedly stole a backpack (was eventually released because it was never proven he did) and committed suicide after developing mental issues: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/06/before-the-law
    -SCOTUS quote comparing Solitary Confinement to a penal tomb: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/former-inmates-suit-claims-20-years-of-solitary-confinement-amounted-to-torture
    -ABA (largest group of attorneys in our nation) who believe this is inhumane: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/criminaljustice/2017/Juvenile_Solitary_Confinement.pdf
    -United Nations who say more than two weeks of Solitary Confinement is inhumane: http://solitaryconfinement.org/mandela-rules

    So I guess it’s cool of you to attack a student for standing up for the countless others who are like the ones I mentioned above without knowing any of the science, statistics, studies, or information behind her work … a student whose research aligns with the ABA and the UN and many, many other states in our nation … but if I were you, I’d educate myself before thinking you know what’s best, simply because you’ve worked in one prison with a limited worldview of what’s actually happening with regard to Solitary Confinement.

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