Health

Ohio Uses Solitary Confinement on Mentally Ill Teens

| by Michael Allen

According to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department on March 12, four juvenile correctional facilities in Ohio placed over 200 mentally ill boys in solitary confinement for almost 60,000 hours in 2013.

Cleveland.com reports that the Justice Department wants a judge to place a temporary restraining order against the confinement practices authorized by the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

“The Ohio Department of Youth Services must stop violating the rights of youth in its custody through unlawful seclusion,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a press release. “The way in which Ohio uses seclusion to punish youth with mental health needs, victimizes one of the most vulnerable groups in our society.”

In response, Frances Russ, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Youth Services, told Mother Jones, "We have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for youth and staff, and seclusion is used as a last resort to maintain safety and order so that we can help youth change their lives."

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According to Mother Jones, the boys in solitary confinement are supposed to be checked every 15 minutes per the policy of the Ohio Department of Youth Services, but Russ wouldn't say if that was being followed.

The practice of keeping juveniles and people with mental disabilities in solitary confinement was condemned in 2011 by Juan Mendez, an United Nations expert on torture.

“Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit… whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique,” Mendez said.

“Solitary confinement is a harsh measure which is contrary to rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system,” added Mendez.

Sources: Cleveland.com, United Nations, Mother Jones, Justice.gov