Alone & Afraid

Children Held in Solitary Confinement and Isolation in Juvenile Detention and Correctional Facilities

Document Date: July 10, 2014

The solitary confinement of children is child abuse, plain and simple. And still, on any given day in this country, juvenile justice facilities routinely subject the 70,000 kids in their care to solitary confinement. Solitary can cause extreme psychological, physical, and developmental harm. For adults, the effects can be persistent mental health problems, or worse, suicide. And for children, who are still developing and more vulnerable to irreparable harm, the risks of solitary are magnified – particularly for kids with disabilities or histories of trauma and abuse.

This toolkit provides advocates with comprehensive resources to end the solitary confinement of kids. Follow the links below to explore the toolkit's resources. For a brief background of the problem of youth solitary in juvenile facilities and solutions to it, read Alone and Afraid: Children Held in Confinement and Isolation in Juvenile Detention and Correctional Facilities.

Start a Campaign: Protecting Children from Isolation

In order to lay the groundwork for an effective Stop Solitary campaign focused on juvenile detention and correctional facilities, it is important to gather as much information as possible regarding the juvenile detention policies and practices in your jurisdiction as possible. A key part of this work must involve elevating the experiences of young people subjected to isolation. These tools include guidance on how to start a campaign, including pointers on how correspond and talk to these young people, how to learn from their stories, and how to remain sensitive to the trauma of solitary confinement.

Changing the Law: Advocacy Materials and Model Legislation

Legislation can be a key element to successful reform. The Juvenile Justice Stop Solitary Act is one proposal to limit solitary confinement and other forms of isolation in juvenile detention and correctional facilities. These resources provide more information about the proposed legislation, additional guidance on advocacy, and discussion of the impact of the Prison Rape Elimination Act and international law on the solitary confinement of youth.

National Standards and Policy Goals

One of the first questions you may be asked in your campaign is, “what is the alternative?” Fortunately, this question has been thoroughly addressed by a variety of experts. Every set of standards or national best practices for caring for youth in confinement settings strictly regulates isolation. These tools provide guidance on additional strategies to end the use of solitary confinement against children, as well as policy proposals from organizations like the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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