A Victory Against Solitary Confinement for Minors

The ACLU reports today on a success in banning the practice of putting minors who are convicted as adults in solitary confinement.

The ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of conditions at the privately-operated Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in central Mississippi. As a result of the lawsuit, the Mississippi Department of Corrections will no longer house minors under its supervision in privately run prisons, or subject them to solitary confinement.

The conditions at Walnut Grove were summarized in the ACLU’s press release: “The lawsuit describes the routine practice of…peddling drugs to the teenagers in their custody, subjecting them to brutal beatings, sexual exploitation, solitary confinement and failing to protect them from violence at the hands of older, predatory prisoners. One youth suffered permanent brain damage as a result of an attack in which GEO staffers were complicit.”

According to Dr. Ernest Drucker of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, in his recently published book A Plague of Prisons, “those placed in solitary…account for almost half of [prison] suicides.” Drucker adds that “the United States now has over half of all the world’s prisoners who are in long-term solitary confinement.”

Solitary confinement has devastating effects on inmates. The victory that the ACLU and SPLC have secured will spare some of the most vulnerable inmates from those effects. You can read more on the ACLU’s Blog of Rights.