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Growing Up Locked Down - Juvenile Solitary Confinement in NE, ACLU 2016

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Growing Up Locked Down
Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

January 2016

Growing
Up
Locked
Down
Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska
ACLU OF NEBRASKA STAFF

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Danielle Conrad
Executive Director

Gloria Romero-Downing (President)
Leslie J. Seymore (National Board
Representative)
Christy Abraham (First Vice President)
Linda Pratt (Second Vice President)
Ashley Moffat (Secretary)
Laurie Thomas Lee (Treasurer)
Dwayne Ball
Jim Bender
Joan Birnie
Tiffany Crouse
James Dake
Eileen Durgin-Clinchard
Brenda Ealey
Shelton Hendricks
Rich Juro
Nicholas Mirkay
Peter Levitov
Luis Sotelo

Amy Miller
Legal Director
Tyler Richard
Communications Director
Maria Funk
Director of Administration and Finance
Christopher “Spike” Eickholt
Government Liaison

INTRODUCTION
The ACLU of Nebraska is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that works to defend
and strengthen the individual freedoms and
civil liberties guaranteed in the United States
and Nebraska Constitutions through policy
advocacy, litigation and education. We serve
over 2,000 members and supporters throughout
our great state and represent more than
500,000 members nationwide.
The ACLU is committed to protecting the
constitutional rights of juveniles in detention.
The use of solitary confinement violates
juveniles’ rights under the following theories:
§§
§§

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

§§

Photos cover, page 8, page 13: © Richard Ross www.juvenile-in-justice.com

§§

Photos page 5, page 22: Phil Jarret, www.cleverchap.com
Theresa Cusic, Law Clerk: University of Nebraska College of Law '17 conducted the research and data
compilation that formed the bulk of this report.

§§
§§

US Constitution 8th Amendment
prohibition of cruel and unusual
punishment
US Constitution 5th Amendment
guarantee of due process
US Constitution 14th Amendment
guarantee of due process
Nebraska State Constitution Article
I-9 prohibition of cruel and unusual
punishment
Nebraska State Constitution Article I-3
guarantee of due process
Americans with Disabilities Act

On any given day in Nebraska, juvenile
justice facilities routinely subject kids in their
care to solitary confinement. The solitary
confinement of children is suspect from a legal
and policy perspective. Solitary confinement
can cause extreme psychological, physical, and
developmental harm. For adults, the effects
can be persistent mental health problems, or
worse, suicide. And for children, who are still
developing and more vulnerable to irreparable
harm, the risks of solitary are magnified –
protracted isolation and solitary confinement
can be permanently damaging, especially for
those with mental illness. It is time to scrutinize
the use of solitary confinement on children.
Nebraska should strictly limit and uniformly
regulate isolation practices to ensure our state
comports with best practices that provide
positive outcomes for vulnerable youth and to
ensure Nebraska quickly remedies potential
systemic legal issues.

Amy Miller, Legal Director: Amy is a graduate of Grinnell College and the University of Nebraska
College of Law. Since 1999, Amy has guided the legal work of the ACLU. She is a frequent lecturer on
civil rights and liberties for the Nebraska Bar Association, law schools and general audiences.

This report and related research was made
possible through the generous support of the
Cooper Foundation.

2 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

ACLU of Nebraska | 3

Dylan

Dylan spent 10 to 12 hours locked away from other youth when he
was 14 and in an Omaha psychiatric facility. He had admitted that
he felt suicidal or self harming. In response, his facility put him in
“the quiet room.”

“

It was set up to be the definition of insanity. Just the four white walls,
the camera, the mattress. It was horrible. It felt horrible. It was more
anxiety-producing because you’re not talking to anyone. If you can’t be
lucky enough to fall asleep then you have nothing and it’s just waiting
for the human being to come back to the door. It’s so upsetting, you’re
alone with your thoughts. No one to talk it out with. Not even a window
to look out of.
In order to avoid being put back into the quiet room, Dylan lost all
trust in the system and changed his future interaction with staff:

“

So I learned to never say anything real after that to keep them
happy. Even when I did feel terrible and wished I could talk about my
depression or suicidal thoughts, I stayed silent.

4 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

REPORT OVERVIEW
Before they are old enough to get a driver’s
license, enlist in the armed forces, or vote,
some children in Nebraska are held in
solitary confinement for days, weeks—and
even months. This practice occurs in every
Nebraska juvenile justice facility, to varying
degrees, but the overarching theme of overuse is consistent throughout the state. On
any given day in Nebraska, juvenile justice
facilities routinely subject the kids in their care
to solitary confinement. Like adult prisons,
juvenile facilities sometimes employ the most
counterproductive and inhumane correctional
practices—including extended periods of
solitary confinement, room restriction,
isolation, segregation, and seclusion. Isolation
practices frequently involve placing a youth
alone in a cell for several hours, sometimes for
multiple days; restricting contact with family
members; limiting access to reading and writing
materials; and providing limited educational
programming, recreation, drug treatment, or
mental health services.
Throughout this report, “solitary confinement”
refers to any physical and social isolation of
children in juvenile detention facilities. It
does not refer to short intervention “time out”
practices used to help a juvenile manage current
acting out behavior.
While temporary use of seclusion for a youth
may be necessary to maintain the safety and
security of that youth or other people, the use
of solitary confinement on children in Nebraska
is clearly overused, and can cause much more
serious problems than those it is supposedly
employed to solve. Additionally, our research
has uncovered that frequently the reasons why
young people are placed in solitary confinement
can be for even relatively minor offenses, such as
talking back to staff members, having too many
books, or refusing to follow directions. This
research gives rise to the concern that juvenile
facilities in Nebraska are not utilizing best
practices for the use of solitary confinement and
6 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

thus are risking serious mental health impacts
for vulnerable youth.
The ACLU of Nebraska generated the idea
for this research in concert with a growing
national conversation about the very specific
harms of solitary confinement on juvenile brain
development. Mental health professionals have
established that the negative psychological
impacts of solitary on the adult brain are greatly
magnified on the developing juvenile brain and
can lead to permanent damage. The American
Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatrists
oppose the use of solitary confinement for
juveniles.1 Experts at the Juvenile Detention
Alternatives Initiative recommend a juvenile be
placed in solitary for no longer than four hours.2
Our partners at Voices for Children recently
completed a multi-year study of the two youth
centers run by the Department of Health
and Human Services (DHHS) at Geneva and
Kearney.3 Their findings show these facilities are
making some progress to decrease the average
stay in solitary confinement but both facilities
are still far in excess of best practices. For
example, some facilities are holding children up
to five days in restricted settings without peer
contact, as described later in this report.
While vitally important, this research of state
facilities does not tell the full story of youth
solitary confinement in Nebraska since it
was limited to only the two DHHS-operated
facilities. In 2015 the ACLU of Nebraska decided
to conduct more comprehensive statewide
research regarding all of the remaining juvenile
detention centers in Nebraska to determine
what, if any, their written policies are and their
actual practices in regards to the use of solitary
confinement.
There are two other state facilities—the
Nebraska Department of Corrections houses
young male offenders at the Nebraska
Correctional Youth Facility and houses young
ACLU of Nebraska | 7

female offenders at the York Correctional Center
for Women. There are also five county facilities
located in Douglas County, Lancaster County,
Sarpy County, Northeast Nebraska Juvenile
Services in Norfolk, and Scotts Bluff County.
The results of our research demonstrates that
these facilities are using solitary far more
frequently and for far longer periods than their
DHHS counterparts and far in excess of best
practices. This report explains how solitary
confinement harms children, catalogs solitary
confinement policies used by Nebraska’s
juvenile detention facilities, and outlines a path
to reform that would decrease the use of solitary
confinement in juvenile detention centers
because we can and we must do better for our
vulnerable youth in Nebraska.

EXISTING NEBRASKA LANDSCAPE
Nebraska far exceeds the national average
for the number of youth residing in juvenile
detention, correction, or residential facilities. In
fact, Nebraska has the third highest per capita
number of youth in juvenile facilities as ranked
by the Annie E. Casey Kids Count Data Center.4
Additionally, our research reveals that Nebraska
is also an outlier in terms of policies that permit
lengthy periods of solitary confinement, with
one shocking example of a policy allowing
for the use of solitary for up to 90 days. Even
more disturbing, some facilities surveyed have
no policies governing solitary confinement or
data to track usage of solitary confinement.
As described below, most of Nebraska’s
neighboring states restrict the use of solitary for
youth along a range of 24 hours to 5 days.
Approximately 8,000 juvenile cases are reported
to the Nebraska Crime Commission each year.5
Thus, reform in this area is critical to improving

the quality of life for the hundreds of vulnerable
Nebraska children in detention facilities within
the juvenile justice system.6 It is also important
to note that the juvenile justice system has
disproportionate impacts among communities
of color: 55% of juveniles in detention in our
state are children of color.7
Many young Nebraskans who are presently
detained are not public safety threats and could
potentially be rehabilitated through much less
restrictive means or at the very least should
not be subjected to mental anguish during
their period of detention. These conditions
of confinement can have long lasting effects
on their ability to successfully transition back
into their families, our communities, and the
economy.

RACIAL DISPARITIES IN NEBRASKA
JUVENILE DETENTION FACILITIES
4 in 20 youth in Nebraska are youth of color.

11 in 20 youth in Nebraska Juvenile Facilities are youth of color.

Source: Kids Count Data Center

8 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

ACLU of Nebraska | 9

THE OVERUSE OF SOLITARY
CONFINEMENT HARMS NEBRASKA
CHILDREN
The overuse of solitary confinement for children is highly suspect from both a legal and policy
perspective. Solitary confinement can cause extreme psychological, physical, and developmental
harm. For adults, the effects can be persistent mental health problems and even result in suicide.
Children are more vulnerable as they are still developing physically and mentally-thus, the risks and
impacts of solitary are magnified and more pronounced – particularly for kids with disabilities or kids
with histories of trauma and abuse. The research cited below draws heavily from two national ACLU
reports on juvenile solitary confinement: “Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement
in Jails and Prisons Across the United States” (2012) and “Alone and Afraid: Children Held in Solitary
Confinement” (2014).
§§

Psychological Damage
Mental health experts agree that long term solitary confinement is psychologically
harmful for adults – especially those with pre-existing mental illness.8 The effects on
children are even more severe due to their unique developmental needs. 9

§§

Increased Suicide Rates
A tragic consequence of the solitary confinement of youth is the increased risk of suicide
and self-harm, including cutting and other acts of self-mutilation. According to research
published by the Department of Justice, more than 50% of all youth suicides in juvenile
facilities occurred while young people were isolated alone in their rooms, and more than
60% of young people who committed suicide in custody had a history of being held in
isolation.10

§§

Denial of Education and Rehabilitation
Access to regular meaningful exercise, to reading and writing materials, and to adequate
mental health care – the very activities that could help troubled youth grow into healthy
and productive citizens – is hampered when youth are confined in isolation.11 Failure to
provide appropriate programming for youth inhibits their ability to grow and develop
normally, to access legal services, and to contribute to society upon their release.12

§§

Stunted Development
Young people’s brains and bodies are developing, placing youth at risk of physical and
psychological harm when healthy development is impeded.13 The evidence is undisputed
that youth require regular exercise and activity to support growing muscles and bones.14
Additionally, since many children in the juvenile justice system have disabilities or
histories of trauma and abuse, solitary confinement can be even more harmful to the
child’s future ability to lead a productive life.15

10 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

Lisa was placed in solitary
confinement in an Omaha psychiatric
facility after threatening self-harm at
age 14.  

“

The room had mesh over the window so
you couldn’t look outside. It was an empty
room with a cement floor, just plain white
walls. There was no mat, nothing in there
with you, the room was totally stripped
bare. When they closed the steel door, I’d
hold onto the door jamb, trying to make it
impossible for them to shut me in. 
Ironically (because I was in solitary for self
harm), I survived my time alone by just
falling back on hurting myself. I’d bite my
own cheeks and tongue, banging my head
on the wall.
Lisa is now a psychologist and
mother. She works with young people
with behavioral health problems,
motivated in part by her desire to
ensure no juvenile goes through what
she did. 

“

Being locked down alone just reinforced
the unhealthy beliefs I already had so I
heard “You’re a freak, you don’t belong
in the world and you don’t belong around
other people.”  What are the facilities
trying to accomplish? If it is to manage
somebody’s behavior so they don’t harm
themselves or someone else, it doesn’t
work—it just creates more isolation, anger
and separation and hopelessness. We need
to be cognizant of how many traumatic
and difficult, violating experiences these
youths have already had.  Solitary just
re-traumatizes them. Much of what was
done to me was out of ignorance, not evil,
but I want people to recognize that we can
change things for the better.

Lisa

CONSTITUTIONAL AND
INTERNATIONAL LAW PROVIDE
SPECIAL PROTECTIONS FOR CHILDREN
Recent Supreme Court jurisprudence makes
clear that youth and adults must be treated
differently in the context of crime and
punishment. For example, we no longer permit
juveniles to be given the death penalty nor life
without parole.16 As the United States Supreme
Court wrote in abolishing life without parole for
juveniles, “…developments in psychology and
brain science continue to show fundamental
differences between juvenile and adult minds.”17
In addition to these Supreme Court opinions
on the difference between youth and adults,
there is a growing trend among lower courts in
cases specifically regarding juveniles in solitary
confinement. For instance, two young men who
experienced mental health deterioration while
held in solitary confinement in juvenile facilities
in New Jersey prevailed against the state in a
$400,000 settlement.18 Similar lawsuits have
been filed with successful resolutions in Illinois,
New York and Ohio.19
International human rights law also
distinguishes between youth and adults,
mandating that youth who commit crimes
receive rehabilitative punishments appropriate
to their age and status.20 According to the
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture,
solitary confinement of youth is cruel, inhumane
and degrading treatment and in some cases,
torture.21
The ACLU’s research in Nebraska shows
that Nebraska facilities fail to comply with
constitutional and human rights law.

RESEARCH IN NEBRASKA
In order to fully evaluate the policies and
use of solitary confinement in Nebraska
youth detention facilities the ACLU began by
identifying current written policies from each
facility. Next, the ACLU conduced an open
records request, asking each facility to provide
logs showing length of stay and frequency of
use of solitary for an 18-month period, covering
January 2014 through June 2015 in order to
evaluate implementation of the policies and
actual use of solitary confinement. The findings
of this research are outlined in the following
pages.
It is important to note at the outset that the
Douglas County Youth Center and Scotts
Bluff County Detention Center responded to
our requests and indicated that they do not
even keep time logs which would permit us to
calculate the usage rates. This disappointing
lack of data in two major youth facilities raises
concerns and demonstrates a clear need for
meaningful statewide reforms.
Experts do not distinguish between “room
restriction” where a juvenile is confined alone
in their cell and “solitary confinement” in a
special locked unit—the mental health impacts
are the same. Our requests from the facilities
encompassed all forms of isolation from
peers. Some facilities reported they use room
restriction for periods, then permit the juvenile
to attend classes before placing the juvenile back
in room restriction. In contrast, some facilities
impose room restriction or solitary confinement
without any periods out of isolation. The data
below incorporates all isolation as reported by
the facilities without differentiation.
ACLU of Nebraska | 13

INVENTORY OF NEBRASKA
JUVENILE DETENTION
FACILITIES & SOLITARY
CONFINEMENT POLICIES
Nebraska currently has nine juvenile detention centers.

Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center - Kearney

Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center - Geneva

Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility and Nebraska Correctional Center for Women22

Two state youth centers run by the Department of Health and Human Services
1	

Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center at Kearney - males

2	

Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center at Geneva - females

Douglas County Youth Center

Two state facilities run by the Nebraska Department of Corrections
3	

Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility - males

4	

Nebraska Correctional Center for Women - females

Lancastser County Youth Services

Five county facilities
5	

Douglas County Youth Center

6	

Lancaster County Youth Services

7	

Northeast Nebraska Juvenile Services Center (Norfolk)

8	

Sarpy County Juvenile Justice Center

9	

Scotts Bluff County Detention Center

As evidenced in the policy inventory below it is
apparent that young people are held in solitary
confinement as a form of punishment for major
and minor rule violations; they are held in
solitary as a safety precaution to protect them
from adult inmates; they are held in solitary to
promote prison management; and sometimes,
they are held in solitary for medical purposes.
The myriad of ways a young person can be
placed in solitary is accompanied by time limit
variations that reflect facility-unique policies.

Northeast Nebraska Juvenile Services Center (Norfolk)
These policies demonstrate a disturbing lack
of uniformity at each of Nebraska’s juvenile
detention centers.
It should be noted that juveniles in the custody
of the Department of Corrections have been
adjudicated as adults—but that label does not
change the fact they are still under the age of
18 with the same vulnerabilities and ongoing
brain development as their counterparts in the
custody of DHHS.

14 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

Sarpy County Juvenile Justice Center
Sarpy County has not promulgated any policies which limit time that youth may be subjected to
solitary confinement.

Scotts Bluff County Detention Center

ACLU of Nebraska | 15

EXAMPLES OF SOLITARY
CONFINEMENT USE IN
NEBRASKA FACILITIES
A young Nebraskan’s experience with solitary
confinement is completely arbitrary and
dependent upon the facility in which he or she
is placed. For example, a youth who serves his
or her time at the Geneva or Kearney Youth
Rehabilitation Center could expect to spend
no more than 5 days in solitary confinement,
while a youth who spends his time at Nebraska
Correctional Youth Facility could expect to
spend up to 90 days in solitary confinement for
a major rule violation.

Solitary logs from Lancaster County Youth
Services demonstrate the seemingly often
arbitrary and subjective use of solitary
confinement as a form of punishment.
The lack of state-wide standards leaves facilities
with far too much discretion, often resulting in
the use of solitary confinement for improper
or unnecessary purposes. These are among the
more trivial reasons a youth has been placed in
solitary.

16 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

ACLU of Nebraska | 17

USE OF SOLITARY
CONFINEMENT IN NEBRASKA
JUVENILE FACILITIES

The ACLU conduced an open records request, asking each facility to provide logs showing length of
stay and frequency of use of solitary for an 18-month period, covering January 2014 through June
2015. A full data table is available on page 31.

NORTHEAST NEB JUVENILE SERVICES
CENTER (in Madison County)
County Facility, 2014-2015
Time Served in Solitary (days)	
Average Length of Stay in Solitary (hours)	
Longest Single Stay in Solitary (days)	
Shortest Stay in Solitary (hours)	

1064
189.16
52
24

NEBRASKA CORRECTIONAL YOUTH
FACILITY (in Douglas County)
State Facility, 2014-2015

The Douglas County Youth
Center and Scotts Bluff
County Detention Center were
unable to provide us with data
about their use of solitary.

Time Served in Solitary (days)	
Average Length of Stay in Solitary (hours)	
Longest Single Stay in Solitary (days)	
Shortest Stay in Solitary (hours)	

GENEVA

SARPY

State Facility, 2012-2014

County Facility, 2014-2015

Time Served in Solitary (days)	
Average Length of Stay in Solitary (hours)	
Longest Single Stay in Solitary (days)	
Shortest Stay in Solitary (hours)	

54.24
43.78
5.1
6.17

Time Served in Solitary (days)	
Average Length of Stay in Solitary (hours)	
Longest Single Stay in Solitary (days)	
Shortest Stay in Solitary (hours)	

KEARNEY

LANCASTER

State Facility, 2012-2014

County Facility, 2014-2015

Time Served in Solitary (days)	
Average Length of Stay in Solitary (hours)	
Longest Single Stay in Solitary (days)	
Shortest Stay in Solitary (hours)	

186
20.80
5
0.06

18 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

Time Served in Solitary (days)	
Average Length of Stay in Solitary (hours)	
Longest Single Stay in Solitary (days)	
Shortest Stay in Solitary (hours)	

2121.04
187.66
90
24

12.18
1.76
0.43
0.13

455.85
14.15
10
0.25
ACLU of Nebraska | 19

Jacob was a status offender who was put in the Douglas County Youth
Facility on three occasions from the time he was 15 to 17. On each stay,
he was placed in lockdown. His first stay in lockdown was “for his own
good” because he had a broken ankle. What might have been a few weeks
in lockdown turned into three months after he pounded the door and
swore, begging them to release him—he was charged with “inciting a
riot.” His second and third visits to solitary lasted over three months
each and arose after he was attacked by older detainees who were gang
members.
Jacob received no therapeutic value from being placed in solitary
confinement. He wasn’t regularly visited by a mental health counselor
and says he wouldn’t have opened up even if he had been: “Therapy
probably wouldn’t have worked—I wasn’t going to open up to the people
who put me in a cage.”
Douglas County had two forms of lockdown in 2008 during Jacob’s time
there—one on a separate solitary unit and one in his normal cell where
he could look out his window at his peers but not interact with them.

“

It was 23 hours a day alone, no TV or radio. You were in there with one book, a
blanket, a mat and a toothbrush. No art materials, no hobby items—everything
was considered contraband. No classes or school while on lockdown. They’d
bring you a packet of handouts but it was up to you whether you wanted to
complete it or not. One hour a day, I’d be taken out and I could go to the gym
but I was by myself even in the gym. I developed a pacing habit. I still do it now.
I’d pace from one wall to the next. I’d pace and pace and imagine I was in one
of the books I was reading. Nighttimes, you’d get a little crazy. They kept the
light on and would wake us up every hour to check on you so you’d never get
any good sleep.
Jacob now volunteers as a mentor for troubled youth and children in
foster care. He wants to ensure no other child spends long months in
solitary:

“

These kids weren’t born tough or angry. These kids were dealing with
abandonment and depression and abuse. Lockdown brings out all these
demons. And if you don’t know how to deal with demons—you’re a kid, you
don’t even know how to deal with normal emotions yet—then you’re sitting
there by yourself, nowhere to go and every negative thing you’ve been told
about yourself seems to be coming true. Every time I look at the news,
someone I was in jail with or someone I mentored is going to prison for life.
They go to the system for correction—they go in as sheep—and they come
out as wolves. If a factory pumped out a bad product over and over again, you
wouldn’t blame the product, you’d go back to the factory and try to fix that
20instead.
| Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

Jacob
ACLU of Nebraska | 21

INVENTORY OF POLICY REFORM IDEAS
AND SOLUTIONS
Nebraska can and must do better for our
vulnerable youth. Alternatives to solitary
confinement produce positive results and less
damage to children. As such, this report includes
an inventory of best practices and successful
models for reform that should be considered
by Nebraska policymakers, thought leaders,
regulators, and facility managers.
National best practices for managing youth
uniformly include strict limitations on the
duration of and procedures for placing youth
in isolation.23 The American Academy of
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends
that solitary confinement be used only as an
immediate safety mechanism.24 The Juvenile
Detention Alternatives Initiative narrows that
window to only 4 hours.25 This is because the
negative effects of the prolonged isolation of
youth, whether intended to protect or punish,
far outweigh any purported benefits. Indeed,
despite its pervasive use and well known harms,
prolonged isolation serves no correctional
purpose.26 There is no research to support the
prolonged isolation of children as a therapeutic
tool or to promote positive behavior. In fact,
interactive treatment programs are more
successful at reducing behavior problems and
mental health problems in youth, while isolation
provokes and worsens these problems.27
States all across the country are safely and
successfully limiting the solitary confinement
of juveniles in custody. Reports indicate that
state juvenile justice agencies have implemented
policy changes in recent years increasingly
limiting isolation practices, with a majority of
state agencies limiting isolation to a maximum
of five days.28 Several of Nebraska’s neighboring
states, including South Dakota29, Minnesota30,
Iowa31, Missouri32, and Arkansas33 have policies
that limit the use of isolation to five days or less.

22 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

Six states – Alaska34, Connecticut35, Maine36,
Nevada37, Oklahoma38, and West Virginia39 – by
statute have limited certain forms of isolation in
juvenile detention facilities.
In some of these states, lawmakers have passed
substantive bans on punitive isolation or on
isolation for periods longer than 72 hours.
In others, such as Nevada, strict reporting
requirements have been implemented, to
monitor the system-wide use of isolation.
Meanwhile, other states have adopted
more systemic models that eliminate the
need for isolation. New York, for instance,
has moved completely away from using
isolation by implementing the “Sanctuary
Model,” which emphasizes trauma-informed
care in lieu of punitive responses to youth
misbehavior.40 Recently, Illinois has taken an
important and progressive step in prohibiting
solitary confinement of juveniles, as well as
implementing policies that tightly limit and
regulate any separation of youths from the
general population for safety reasons.41
Best practices suggested by the Juvenile
Detention Alternatives Initiative and the
Performance Based Standards Initiative permit
brief periods of isolation as long as they are
supervised.42 The American Correctional
Association standards would also permit solitary
confinement but with approximately equivalent
living conditions and privileges including more
staff attention rather than less.43
Nebraska policymakers should consider
establishing and implementing uniform
statewide policies for the use of solitary
confinement which can be applied to all our
juvenile facilities. As more states begin to move
away from solitary confinement for youth,
Nebraska should consider banning solitary as

ACLU of Nebraska | 23

well. Establishing clear policies, ensuring strong education and implementation efforts at the agency
and facility level, and providing for effective ongoing oversight are critical elements of successful
reform. Such legislation could include reforms that place limitations on when and how solitary can be
used:
§§

Solitary confinement is not to be used as a disciplinary measure or as punishment except
after all other less-restrictive options have been exhausted, in extreme circumstances,
which must be documented, and should not be used for four hours or longer.

§§

Any juvenile placed in disciplinary or punitive room confinement must be provided due
process protections, including the opportunity to know the reason for the decision, to
appeal the decision in writing and with an advocate present.

§§

Solitary confinement of a juvenile for longer than four hours should be approved by the
director of the juvenile facility and documented in writing. A mental health professional
should also provide an assessment of the youth placed in solitary confinement for over
four hours.

§§

The staff member who authorized the use of seclusion should file a written report with
the head of the institution or facility setting forth the circumstances of the action and
the reason for the use of seclusion.

§§

Each juvenile facility should ensure clear documentation regarding the usage of solitary
confinement, including all of the following data points:
1) The name and age of the person subject to solitary confinement.
2) The date and time the person was placed in solitary confinement.
3) The date and time the person was released from solitary confinement.
4) A description of circumstances leading to use of solitary confinement.
5) A description of alternative actions and sanctions attempted and found unsuccessful.

§§

Mandating that all staff working in youth facilities have training in youth development,
mental health, and de-escalation techniques as part of the academy and annual
refresher training. Staff need more positive skills to deal with kids, especially kids with
backgrounds of abuse and trauma, so part of reform is empowering staff to do their job
better.

24 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

STATES THAT HAVE REFORMED
JUVENILE SOLITARY

Use of solitary limited to 5 days
Use of solitary limited to
certain offenses
Moved away from solitary for
youth

ACLU of Nebraska | 25

CONCLUSION
Solitary confinement and isolation of children is
psychologically and developmentally damaging and
can result in long-term problems and even suicide.
Nebraska’s laws, policies, and practices must be
reformed to ensure that conditions in the juvenile
justice system are effective and safe – and that they
prioritize protection and rehabilitation.
Working together we firmly believe that meaningful
reforms have the capacity to ensure improved
conditions of confinement curing potential
constitutional violations for Nebraska youth,
mitigation of risk and legal liability for the State
and counties which have jurisdiction over juvenile
detention facilities, and most importantly improved
outcomes for vulnerable children in Nebraska now
and well into the future.

26 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

ACLU of Nebraska | 27

ENDNOTES
1	
2	
3	
4	

5	
6	
7	
8	
9	

10	
11	
12	

13	
14	
15	

16	
17	
18	
19	

Solitary Confinement of Juvenile Offenders, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (April 2012),
https://www.aacap.org/aacap/policy_statements/2012/solitary_confinement_of_juvenile_offenders.aspx.
Juvenile Detention Facility Assessment, Standards Instrument: 2014 Update. Juvenile Detention Alternatives
Initiative, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Voices for Children, Data Snapshot: Nebraska’s Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (2015), available at
http://issuu.com/voicesne/docs/yrtc_data_snapshot.
Kids Count Data Center, a Project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation: Youth Residing in Juvenile Detention,
Correctional and/or Residential Facilities (Oct. 2015), http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/42-youthresiding-in-juvenile-detention-correctional-and-or-residential-facilities?loc=1&loct=2#ranking/2/any/true/867/
any/17599.
Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, Juvenile Court Reporting, http://www.ncc.
nebraska.gov/statistics/data_search/jcr.htm (last visited Nov. 18, 2015).
Kids Count Data Center, supra note 4, at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/42-youthresiding-in-juvenile-detention-correctional-and-or-residential-facilities?loc=29&loct=2#detailed/2/29/
false/36,867,133,18,17/any/319,17599.
Kids Count Data Center, supra note 4, at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/8391-youthresiding-in-juvenile-detention-correctional-and-or-residential-facilities-by-race-and-hispanicorigin?loc=29&loct=2#detailed/2/29/false/36,867,133,18,17/4038,4411,1461,1462,1460,4157,1353/16996,17598.
Craig Haney, Mental Health Issues in Long-Term Solitary and “Supermax” Confinement, 49 Crime & Delinq. 124,
130, 134 (2003).
Solitary Confinement of Juvenile Offenders, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2012), https://
www.aacap.org/aacap/policy_statements/2012/solitary_confinement_of_juvenile_offenders.aspx; see also
Sandra Simkins, Marty Beyer & Lisa Geis, The Harmful Use of Isolation in Juvenile Facilities: the Need for PostDisposition Representation, 38 WASH. U. J.L. & POL’Y 241, 257-61 (2012).
Id. at 259; see also Christopher J. Mumola, Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ 210036, Suicide and Homicide in
State Prisons and Local Jails (2005), available at http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/shsplj.pdf.
Andrea J. Sedlak & Karla S. McPherson, Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention, NCJ 22729,
Conditions of Confinement: Findings from the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement (2010), available at
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/227729.pdf.
Centers for Disease Control, “Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Youth from the
Juvenile to the Adult Justice System,” (2007), available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr5609.pdf and
“The Dangers of Detention,” Justice Policy Institute, (2006), available at http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/
upload/06-11_REP_DangersOfDetention_JJ.pdf.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, supra note 9.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, How Much Physical Activity do Children Need?, http://www.cdc.gov/
mmwr/pdf/rr/rr5609.pdf.
American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement: Health Care for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, 128
PEDIATRICS 1219, 1223-24 (2011), available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/
early/2011/11/22/peds.2011-1757.full.pdf (reviewing the literature on the prevalence of mental health problems
among incarcerated youth);Andrea J. Sedlak, Karla S. McPherson & Monica Basena, Office of Juvenile Justice &
Delinquency Prevention, NCJ 240703, Nature and Risk of Victimization: Findings from the Survey of Youth in
Residential Placement (2013), available at http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/240703.pdf (finding that 56 percent of
youth in custody experience one or more types of victimization while in custody, including sexual assault, theft,
robbery, and physical assault).
Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010) (outlawing life without parole for juveniles); Roper v. Simmons, 453 U.S.
551 (2005) (outlawing capital punishment for juveniles).
Graham v. Florida, at 68.
Jeff Goldman, N.J. To Pay Half of $400K Settlement over Solitary Confinement of Juveniles, The Star-Ledger,
Dec. 10, 2013.
Julie Bosman, Lawsuit Leads to New Limits on Solitary Confinement at Juvenile Prisons in Illinois, New York
Times, May 5, 2015, at A11. For other lawsuits successfully resolved to limit or ban solitary confinement, see, e.g.,
Consent Decree, C.B., et al. v. Walnut Grove Corr. Facility, No. 3:10-cv-663 (S.D. Miss. 2012) (prohibiting solitary
confinement of children); Settlement Agreement, Raistlen Katka v. Montana State Prison, No. BDV 2009-1163
(Apr. 12, 2012) (limiting the use of isolation and requiring special permission); Mo. Sup. Ct. Rule 129.04 app. A
§ 9.5-9.6 (2009) (placing limits on “room restriction exceeding twenty-four hours.)” For Ohio litigation, see DOJ

28 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

20	

21	

22	
23	

24	
25	
26	

27	
28	

29	
30	
31	
32	
33	
34	
35	

36	

Summary of the Case and Settlement, http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2014/May/14-crt-541.html; see also Order,
United States v. Ohio, No. 2:08-cv-475 (S.D. Ohio, May 20, 2014), available at http://www.childrenslawky.org/
wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Doc-400-1-Agreed-Order.pdf For New York litigation, see Stipulation for a Stay
with Conditions, Docket No. 11-CV-2694 (SAS), Peoples v. Fischer, No. 2:11-cv-02694-SAS, Doc. 124 (Feb. 19,
2014 S.D.N.Y.), available at http://www.nyclu.org/files/releases/Solitary_Stipulation.pdf
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Arts. 10, 14(4), opened for signature Dec. 16, 1966, S. Exec.
Rep. 102-23, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (entered into force Mar. 23, 1976) (ratified by U.S. June 8, 1992) (“ICCPR”);
Convention on the Rights of the Child, Arts. 3(1), 37, 40(3)-(4), opened for signature Nov. 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S.
3 (entered into force Sept. 2, 1990) (“CRC”). The United States signed the CRC in 1995 but has not ratified the
treaty.
Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Interim Rep.
of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ¶ 77,
U.N. Doc. A/66/268 (Aug. 5, 2011) (by Juan Mendez), available at http://solitaryconfinement.org/uploads/
SpecRapTortureAug2011.pdf
While theoretically young women adjudicated as adults will be housed in York at the women’s prison, there are
few young female detainees at any given time so this report’s statistics only reflect the young men in custody at the
Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility.
See, e.g., American Correctional Association, “Performance Based Standards Juvenile Correctional Facilities”
(4th ed. 2009); Performance Based Standards Learning Institute, “PbS Goals, Standards, Outcome
Measures, Expected Practices and Processes” (2007), available at http://sccounty01.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/prb/
media%5CGoalsStandardsOutcome%20Measures.pdf; Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, “A Guide to
Juvenile Detention Reform: Juvenile Detention Facility Assessment” (2014) at 117, available at http://www.
prearesourcecenter.org/sites/default/files/library/aecf-juveniledetentionfacilityassessment-2014.pdf (“Staff never
use room confinement for discipline, punishment, administrative convenience, retaliation, staffing shortages, or
reasons other than a temporary response to behavior that threatens immediate harm to a youth or others”).
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, supra note 9.
Voices for Children, supra note 3.
See, e.g., Linda M. Finke, RN, PhD, Use of Seclusion is Not Evidence-Based Practice, 14 J. Child & Adolescent
Psychiatric Nursing 4, (2001), available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1744-6171.2001.
tb00312.x/full; Steven H. Rosenbaum, Chief, Special Litigation Section, Remarks before the Fourteenth Annual
National Juvenile Corrections and Detention Forum (May 16, 1999), available at http://www.justice.gov/crt/
special-litigation-section-cases-and-matters-1
Simkins et al., supra note 9, at 257-58.
Performance Based Standards, Reducing Isolation and Room Confinement, at 4-6 (Sept. 2012), available at
http://pbstandards.org/uploads/documents/PbS_Reducing_Isolation_Room_Confinement_201209.pdf. (“…
very few state agency policies permit extended isolation time for youths and the majority limit time to as little as
three hours and a maximum of up to five days.” at 4).
South Dakota Department of Corrections: Juvenile Discipline System, available at http://doc.sd.gov/documents/
about/policies/Juvenile%20Discipline%20System.pdf
Minnesota Department of Corrections: Discipline Plan and Rules of Conduct, available at http://www.doc.state.
mn.us/DocPolicy2/html/DPW_DisplayINS.asp?Opt=303.010RW.htm.
Iowa Administrative Code: Juvenile Detention and Shelter Care Homes, available at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/
docs/ACO/chapter/441.105.pdf
Missouri Standards for Operation of Juvenile Detention Facility, available at https://www.courts.mo.gov/file/
AppendixA-JuvenileDetentionStandards02-14.pdf
Arkansas Juvenile Detention Facility Standards, available at http://www.sos.arkansas.gov/rulesRegs/
Arkansas%20Register/2014/dec2014/006.26.14-002.pdf
Alaska Delinquency Rule 13 (Oct. 15, 2012) (banning isolation of juveniles for “punitive” reasons, but defining
“secure confinement” as permissible for “disciplinary” reasons and when there is a safety or security risk).
Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46b-133 (d)(5) (officials supervising children who have been arrested may not place “any
child at any time” in “solitary confinement,” but the statute does not define “solitary confinement”); Conn. Gen.
Stat. Ann. § 17a-16(d)(1) (West 2014); Conn. Agencies Regs. § 17a-16-11 (2014) (for post-adjudication youth in
Connecticut, the use of “seclusion” is governed by a statute and corresponding regulations requiring periodic
authorizations and thirty-minute checks).
Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 34-A § 3032 (5) (including segregation in the list of permissible punishments for adults, but not
in the list for children; however, while state law prohibits “confinement to a cell” and “segregation” as punishment
in juvenile correctional facilities, the state’s rules permit “room restriction” for juveniles, evevn for minor rule
violations).

ACLU of Nebraska | 29

37	
38	
39	

40	
41	
42	
43	

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62B (children may be subjected to “corrective room restriction” only if all other less-restrictive
options have been exhausted and only for listed purposes, and no child may be locked alone in a room for longer
than 72 hours).
Okla. Admin. Code, 377:35-11-4, Solitary Confinement (noting that solitary confinement of youth is a “serious and
extreme measure to be imposed only in emergency situation”).
W.V. Code §49-5-16a, Rules governing juvenile facilities (solitary confinement may not be used to punish a
juvenile and except for sleeping hours, a juvenile may not be locked alone in a room unless that juvenile is “not
amenable to reasonable direction and control.”); but see W.V. Div. Juvenile Serv., Pol’y No. 330.00, Institutional
Operations, at 9, available at http://www.wvdjs.state.wv.us/Portals /0/Files/330.00%20-%20Resident%20
Discipline.pdf (permitting up to ten days room confinement as a sanction for some offenses).
See Sanctuary Network, The Sanctuary Model, http://www.sanctuaryweb.com/network.php (listing systems and
facilities that have adopted the Sanctuary Model for juvenile justice).
Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Discipline and Grievances, available at http://www.aclu-il.org/wpcontent/uploads/2015/04/RJ-v-Jones-IDJJ-confinement-procedures-filed-4-20-15.pdf
Performance Based Standards, supra note 28, at 4-6.
American Correctional Association, Performance Based Standards Juvenile Correctional Facilities 51 (4th ed.
2009) (Standard 4-JCF-3C-01).

Use of Solitary Confinement in Nebraska Juvenile Facilities
Time Served in
Average Length Longest Single Stay in Shortest Single Stay in
Solitary
of Stay in Solitary
Solitary
Solitary
(days)
(hours)
(days)
(hours)
Lancaster (County Facility)
455.85
14.45
10.00
0.25
2014
314.55
14.92
10.00
0.25
2015
141.30
13.51
7.00
0.50
Sarpy (County Facility)
12.18
1.76
0.43
0.13
2014
6.39
1.60
0.43
0.13
2015
5.80
1.99
0.42
0.13
Northeast NE Juvenile Services Center (County Facility)
1064.00
189.16
52.00
24.00
2014
1064.00
189.16
52.00
24.00
Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility (County Facility)
2721.04
187.66
90.00
24.00
2014
1179.04
179.09
28.00
48.00
2015
1542.00
194.78
90.00
24.00
Kearney (State Facility)
186.00
20.80
5.00
0.06
2012
120.31
5.00
7.44
23.17
2013
1689.10
3.50
0.06
23.49
2014
17.15
2.55
0.67
15.73
Geneva (State Facility)
54.24
43.78
5.10
6.17
2012
40.43
5.10
24.27
83.33
2013
7.61
1.89
8.42
26.42
2014
6.20
1.99
6.17
21.58
The Douglas County Youth Center and Scotts Bluff County Detention Center were unable to provide
us with data about their use of solitary.

30 | Growing Up Locked Down: Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska

ACLU of Nebraska | 31

Growing Up Locked Down
Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Nebraska
402.476.8091
gethelp@aclunebraska.org
www.aclunebraska.org

 

 

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