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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 17, 2019 03:04 PM
From: Representative Joanna E. McClinton
To: All House members
Subject: Prohibiting Solitary Confinement for Juveniles
Solitary confinement is one of the most common, counterproductive practices that occur in juvenile facilities. According to a 2016 report from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, almost half of juvenile detention facilities and training schools reported that they isolate youth for more than four hours to control behavior. Not only is this practice counterproductive and cruel, it is also unfairly applied. Solitary confinement disproportionately affects youth of color, LGBTQ youth and children with disabilities.

Juveniles need development and deserve safety, regardless of their criminal history. Yet, when held in solitary confinement, adolescents are often denied access to treatment and programming to meet their developmental and rehabilitative needs. Solitary confinement can cause psychological and emotional harm, trauma, depression, anxiety, and an increased risk of self-harm. In fact, in the juvenile justice system, approximately half of all suicides take place when a young person is held in “room confinement.”

In 2016, President Obama issued an executive order banning the practice of placing juveniles in solitary confinement within the federal prison system. This reform was included as part of bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation signed into law earlier this year by President Trump. While these developments are certainly a step in the right direction, children housed in juvenile facilities throughout Pennsylvania are still waiting for help and an end to this inhumane practice.

Currently, loopholes in state law allow facilities to isolate youth in juvenile placement for days, weeks, or even months on end. This form of punishment undermines the intended, rehabilitative nature of juvenile corrections. We know this harmful practice does not work. Youth subjected to long periods of isolation and exclusion do not leave rehabilitated; instead, they leave with serious long-term psychological effects.

It is past time we ban this cruel and inhumane form of rehabilitation and promote evidence-based, common sense reforms that our children and our communities deserve. Please join me in supporting this important legislation.

Introduced as HB939