Juveniles in Solitary Confinement: Informative Essay

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There are many concerning issues within juvenile corrections. One of those pressing issues is solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is defined as the isolation of a prisoner in a separate cell as a form of punishment. Every day across the United States, young people under the age of 18 are placed in solitary confinement. In this essay, I will discuss the issue surrounding juveniles in solitary confinement compared to Germany’s treatment of juveniles and the ways it has improved.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), juveniles in solitary confinement spend more than 22 hours each day behind a solid steel door, completely isolated both physically and mentally. This harsh treatment of isolation often continues for days, weeks, and even months on end (ACLU, 2012). Both Human Rights Watch and the ACLU estimated that in 2011, far more than 90,000 youths were held in prison and jails that supported solitary confinement (ACLU, 2012). Along with the ACLU, there have been several different outlets that have shed some light on the issue. One of which is Fox News. In an article written by Talia Kirkland, she wrote that President Trump signed a bill that included the Obama-era executive order banning solitary confinement in federal prisons. However, the practice still continues at many state and county correctional facilities for the most vulnerable population, which are juveniles. A huge step has been taken in banning solitary confinement in federal prisons, however, I believe that we have a lot more to accomplish across the board to ensure that it is eliminated indefinitely.

There are many reasons as to why the government implemented solitary confinement on juveniles. The most common justification is punishment – using segregation as a form of discipline. Other reasons are overpopulation, if the juvenile poses as a danger to others, protection, or as a form of treatment. Despite all the reasons presented for implementing solitary confinement on juveniles, it can also cause major effects on growing adolescents. Due to the fact that juveniles are still developing, the negative effects of solitary are escalated and can also appear much faster than they do in adults. According to Lee, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, young people are at particular risk due to their tolerance, impulsivity, frustration, and their emotional immaturity. Additionally, juveniles face other detrimental effects such as anxiety, paranoia, and depression. The most important of them all are suicide and attempted suicide.

New York City is one the most popular states to practice solitary. The most popular case as of the present day to bring awareness to the issue is Kalief Browder’s. He was a Bronx 16-year-old who was wrongfully charged with stealing a backpack and spent over 2 years in solitary confinement at Rikers Island jail. Just two years after his release, Kalief committed suicide (Eldridge, 2018). Solitary confinement is no longer allowed for inmates younger than 18 at state and federal-run facilities in New York. However, local jails still use solitary as punishment, despite what happened to Kalief Browder. In 2016, more than 37,000 adolescents between the ages of 16-17 were reportedly being held in jail in New York City. It is specifically important to note that it is unclear how many are being held in confinement since county jails are not required to track the age of inmates locked away in isolation (Eldridge, 2016).

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When looking at the topic of juveniles being placed in solitary confinement, I think that the issue is centered around neuroscience, law, and sociology. The reason is that it has been examined and proven that confinement causes mental illnesses in juveniles. Additionally, lawmakers implement it as a way to control the social aspect surrounding it. Lastly, the conversation on whether the law should continue to implement such harsh punishment for young people is still one to be discussed. I also believe that there is much to learn from other countries by viewing their stance on the matter.

In order to devise a system that protects juveniles from entering the adult criminal justice system, it is important to take a look at the methods of other countries. In Germany, for example, young people under the age of 21 are treated as juveniles and can never be tried as adults. According to Gonzales, German officials say that an adolescent at the age of 18 is not at all mentally or emotionally ready to handle adult jails or consequences. This is very different from that of the United States as they prosecute young adults under the age of 16. Germans, on the other hand, cannot prosecute minors as adults, no matter the crime (Gonzales, 2016).

Among the many differences between German prisons and American prisons, the facilities and sentencing deem the most interesting. According to Gonzales, German prisons are supposed to mirror the outside world. The sentencing given to minors is rather short compared to the extensive sentencing given to minors in the United States. Additionally, every inmate must have a job to which they get paid minimum wage and are given whatever tools needed to complete said job. For example, they are given knives and even electric saws. Furthermore, males and females sleep in separate rooms but are housed under the same roof. They are allowed to engage with the opposite sex, as well as form relationships. The article continues to mention the lavish treatment inmates receive in German prisons.

It is no surprise that Germany’s practices are very different from the United States. For America to take a step in the right direction, adopting new ways from other countries must be considered. One lesson the United States could learn from Germany is giving jobs to juveniles while incarcerated. This could work to benefit adolescents to become better and learn to live non-violent lives. Gonzales mentioned that Germans believe juveniles having jobs mirror the outside world and helps them live a life without crimes. Additionally, it could benefit the US by lowering the number of juveniles incarcerated each year, and thus lower the amount of funding spent.

The topic of juveniles in solitary confinement is one of the most pressing issues facing our country today. More and more juveniles under the age of 18 are spending more than 22 hours locked away in a room with just their thoughts to get them by. The government implemented solitary for many reasons. However, they fail to acknowledge the mental issues that are a product of solitary, especially suicide, which is very prominent. Germany’s prison system for adolescents that commit crimes is very different from America’s. They not only allow both sexes under the same prison facility, but they also allow them to hold paid jobs. Allowing young adults to have responsibilities while incarcerated is one lesson America would benefit from. However, America still has a long way to go in order to reach a more progressive and humane yet disciplinary method.

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Juveniles in Solitary Confinement: Informative Essay. (2023, October 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/juveniles-in-solitary-confinement-informative-essay/
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Juveniles in Solitary Confinement: Informative Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/juveniles-in-solitary-confinement-informative-essay/> [Accessed 25 May 2024].
Juveniles in Solitary Confinement: Informative Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 11 [cited 2024 May 25]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/juveniles-in-solitary-confinement-informative-essay/
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