Much research has been done in recent years on the effects that solitary confinement has on inmates. Studies suggest that improper and over-zealous use of solitary confinement can severely harm inmates both mentally and physically. Florida is in a unique position to rectify some of these preventable wrongs. As the state which incarcerates more juvenile offenses than any other, it can set an example for limiting the use of solitary confinement and regulating what use continues to occur.
A state senator recently introduced the “Youth in Solitary Confinement Reduction Act” into the legislative agenda. The bill seeks to both limit the use of solitary confinement for juvenile offenders and to minimize the catastrophic physical and mental impacts that continued use would have on Florida youths.
Specifically, the bill would prohibit use of solitary confinement for minors except in very specific situations. When minors are placed in solitary, they will not be held there for more than 72 hours, will be given time away from their cell, will be subject to mental health evaluations and will be treated in the least restrictive manner necessary to maintain the safety of the juvenile and those around him or her.
Should Florida pass this bill, the state could serve as a model to others. The way that the criminal justice system treats juvenile offenders greatly influences how these individuals will live the rest of their lives. By mitigating the destructive impact that solitary confinement has on these individuals, the state could certainly inspire these youths to live healthier and more adjusted lives in the future.
Source: ACLU, “Legislation Filed Responding to Crisis of Florida Minors Subjected to Harmful, Counterproductive Solitary Confinement,” Feb. 20, 2013