Protect the Human Rights of Ohio’s Children and Stop their Placement in Solitary Confinement
In Ohio, it is legal to place kids in solitary confinement. Children as young as 10 are kept alone in cells no larger than a bathroom, without windows, spending 22+ hours a day in total isolation. Ohio youth have been placed in solitary in adult jails, state youth correctional facilities, local juvenile detention centers, and residential treatment facilities for days, months, and even years.
Any period of time in solitary confinement can be detrimental to kids especially due to their vulnerability. No matter the age or amount of time placed in solitary, people can experience trauma, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts. Since youth are still developing, the effects are even more harmful. Many youth sent to solitary have histories of trauma and behavioral health issues. Research indicates there is a strong correlation between isolation and youth suicide or other self-harm and that mental illness may be caused or exacerbated as a result of seclusion.
Youth in solitary confinement are often denied education, recreation and rehabilitative programming. During the time that children are in isolation they often have no contact with their family members, peers, or adults other than those bringing them food or taking them out for exercise a few times a week. This includes the denial of appropriate education, mental health services and other therapeutic programming critical for their success post-release. When these services are withheld, youth return to our communities with untreated mental and behavioral health issues that increase their chance of recidivism.
Solitary confinement is considered torture and is prohibited by the United Nations for anyone under the age of 18. Numerous experts and organizations in the United States, including the U.S. Department of Justice recognize that kids are harmed by placing them in solitary. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Bar Association have all documented it as a destructive practice. There have been U.S. Congressional hearings about ending its use and The Annie E. Casey Foundation developed national standards dictating that juvenile detention centers never isolate kids as punishment and under no circumstances held more than 4 hours.
Ohio has no statutory requirements prohibiting all facilities from placing a youth in solitary for more than 22 hours a day. Solitary confinement can be used for a variety of reasons, many having nothing to do with the youth being dangerous. There are no mandatory guidelines in Ohio for: monitoring facilities that use seclusion; for regulating or reporting its use even for brief periods of time; or protocols for responding to youth who have experienced seclusion. Due to lawsuits, there has recently been a commitment from state youth corrections to eliminate this practice in the near future.
By signing this petition I am telling Governor Kasich that:
I am in agreement that the shameful and egregious practice of placing youth in solitary confinement in Ohio must end.
I believe that placing youth in solitary confinement is a human right issue and that by using this form of torture we are increasing risk to public safety by exasperating or causing mental health issues and denying youth access to the treatment and education needed for their well-being.
No youth, for any reason, whether in a state juvenile or adult correctional facilities, local juvenile detention centers or residential treatment should be subjected to isolation for an extended period of time and its use for shorter periods of time must be scrutinized and regulated.
Statutory mechanisms should exist in Ohio that require oversight and monitoring of any facility that may use seclusion while housing a child including standards around its use and the proper response to youth that have been subjected to the practice.
Ohio should adopt relevant standards developed by national organizations specializing in youth and comply with any current or future federal regulation about the use of solitary confinement on youth.