in cells without adequate treatment or counseling services, staff did not know why youth were
confined, youth ate meals in their cells, and youth were only let out to take showers.159 In Pena v.
New York State Division for Youth, the Southern District of New York likewise found that
isolation caused “clearly anti-therapeutic hostility and frustration,” and limited its use to six
hours, except “in the most extreme circumstances.” 160
Under their purview, correctional agencies have a legitimate interest and an affirmative
duty in maintaining safety and order within facilities. Reliance on the use of isolation practices,
however, may actually make facilities more dangerous and less orderly than facilities with
effective behavioral management systems. This is discussed further in the section on
Performance-based Standards below.
ii. Courts have examined whether the use of isolation is unreasonably restrictive
Other challenges to isolation practices under the Fourteenth Amendment have been based
on the proposition that youth who have not been convicted of crime have a constitutionally
protected interest in freedom from unnecessary bodily restraint. If a state can address the sources
of the youth’s behavior problems without extensive isolation, then isolating the youth when other
measures are available may be unreasonable. 161 In Youngberg v. Romeo, the Supreme Court held
that civilly committed persons had a liberty interest in, among other things, “reasonably
nonrestrictive confinement conditions.” 162 Unreasonably restrictive conditions of confinement
“unduly restrict the juveniles’ freedom of action and are not reasonably related to legitimate
security or safety needs of the institution.” 163
To determine whether conditions are unreasonably restrictive, a court must examine
whether the people involved in the decision-making regarding the conditions of confinement
exercised professional judgment. 164 Accordingly, “[t]he level of restraint to be used for each
juvenile should be based upon some rational professional judgment as to legitimate safety and
security needs.” 165 Conditions amounting to a “substantial departure from accepted professional
judgment, practice, or standards” violate detained children’s due process rights. 166
The Koller court also applied the Youngberg standard to the LGBT youth placed in
isolation. Relying on expert testimony that “long-term segregation or isolation of youth is …
well outside the range of accepted professional practices,” the court concluded that the facility’s
use of isolation was not “within the range of acceptable professional practices.” 167 Considering
the Bell and Youngberg standards together, the court held that the facility’s protective use of
isolation was a violation of the youths’ right to due process of law. 168
The application of accepted professional standards should be used to limit time in
isolation, to focus on eliminating harmful effects, and to ensure a range of better behavior
management tools are used in the alternative. Santana v. Collazo’s language about the
reasonableness of restricting or eliminating isolation with “additional individual attention” invites
159 Morgan v. Sproat, 432 F. Supp. 1130, 1138-40 (S.D. Miss. 1977).
160 Pena v. N. Y. State Div. for Youth, 419 F. Supp. 203, 210 (S.D.N. Y. 1976).
161 Santana v. Collazo, 714 F.2d 1172, 1182 (1st Cir. 1983).
162 Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 324 (1982).
163 Alexander S. v. Boyd, 876 F. Supp. 773, 797 (D.S.C. 1995).
164 Youngberg, 457 U.S. at 321; see also Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126, 132 (2003) (according substantial deference “to the
professional judgment of prison administrators, who bear a significant responsibility for defining the legitimate goals of a corrections
system and for determining the most appropriate means to accomplish them”).
165 Alexander S., 876 F. Supp. at 787.
166 Youngberg, 457 U.S. at 321.