Reform Watch

Children’s Rights testified about the dangerous developmental effects of solitary confinement on youth under 25 in New York City jails, serving as one of the voices propelling a landmark decision made by the city’s Board of Correction.

This advocacy is very much in line with CR’s mission, as news reports show 48 percent of the 5,400 children arrested and detained in New York City in 2010 had previous foster care involvement. CR Attorney Julia Davis testified about the impact of solitary confinement on adolescents and young adults who have already experienced significant trauma in their lives. “The research is clear. [Solitary confinement] has life threatening risks to older youth, including mental illness or worsened mental illness, anxiety, rage, insomnia, self-mutilation, suicidal thoughts and suicide.”

But according to news reports, boys and young men at Rikers were being kept in isolation 23 hours a day and locked away for weeks, months, or, in some cases, over a year.

As a result of mounting criticism from Children’s Rights, the Legal Aid Society, the Urban Justice Center, Children’s Defense Fund and many others, New York City officials announced a plan to ban solitary confinement for people 21 and younger. They are also reducing the maximum amount of time anyone age 18 or older can spend in solitary confinement from 90 to 30 days.

Read additional articles in Notes from the Field, the Children’s Rights Newsletter: