A new report from the organization shows the practice is used too frequently and the durations are too long.
Amy Fettig works as senior legal counsel on the ACLU National Prison Project. She says Nebraska is on the far end of the spectrum when it comes to isolating youth.
“Nebraska has children being held in solitary confinement for three months – 90 days – or 15 days. That is an extreme outlier,” she says. “You look at the international human rights standards and for adults, you should never place anybody in solitary confinement longer than 15 days.”
Danielle Conrad, executive director of the ACLU of Nebraska, says research shows that four hours is the longest duration any teen should be isolated.
“The consensus is very clear, that there is no good reason to rely upon a tool like this, so dramatic in its impacts and effects, with this amount of severity,” she says.
Conrad says anything longer than four hours of solitary confinement should require the facility director’s permission and a mandatory mental health assessment for the youth.
ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller says the findings from the four state and five county-run facilities are disturbing.
“There’s no uniformity within our own state, so nobody is complying with best practices,” she says, “and they’re not even having some sort of consensus or uniformity that speaks to some sort of Nebraska sense of what is appropriate.”
The ACLU of Nebraska is recommending:
- Joining the growing number of states banning solitary confinement for youth.
- Limiting solitary confinement to a last-resort and for no more than 4 hours.
- Providing due-process and an appeals process.
- Requiring facility director permission for placement of a youth beyond four hours and mandatory mental health assessments of youth placed in solitary for this period.
- Mandatory reporting for facilities use of solitary.
- Mandatory staff training on alternatives to solitary.