The Nebraska departments of Correctional Services and Health and Human Services are outlining their use of solitary confinement with juveniles.
The ACLU of Nebraska is seeking an end to the practice after a review of its use in nine state and county facilities showed some teens were isolated for as long as 90-days.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services operates two Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTC) that were part of the ACLU’s survey. In an email from DHHS, a spokesman writes the average length of stay in isolation during 2014 for youth was 2.55 hours at the YRTC in Kearney and 1.99 hours at the YRTC in Geneva. That is roughly a 50% decline in the average stay from 2012 to 2014.
Tony Green, DHHS Deputy Director, Office of Juvenile Services, says they support the research about the detriments of placing youth in isolation and DHHS is complying with nearly all of the ACLU’s recommendations.
“Currently, we limit solitary confinement as a last resort and, as evidenced by our average stays, aim to keep isolation stays to less than four hours,” Green says in an email sent to journalists. “Our youth are provided due-process and an appeals process. We have instituted mental health examinations for youth in isolation more than a few hours, and permission is necessary from senior management to extend isolation more than four hours.”
Green also says DHHS staff is trained on alternatives to isolation.
The state Department of Correctional Services houses juvenile male offenders at the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility and females at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women.
NDCS spokeswoman Dawn-Renee Smith says the department is working with the Vera Institute of Justice as well as other local stakeholders to develop rules and regulations governing the use of restrictive housing for all populations.
“NDCS uses restrictive housing as necessary for youthful offenders adjudicated as adults and sentenced to its custody,” Smith says in an email sent to jouranlists. “There are processes in place to ensure a review by the facility warden as well as to provide the individual with a voice to appeal the decision.”
Smith says restrictive housing units, specifically in the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility, are in a gallery of 16 cells which include sight into the gallery and outside the facility. She says people in restrictive housing have routine interaction with medical and mental health staff, other facility staff and others assigned to that gallery.