measures, such as closed or solitary confinement, that may compromise a child’s physical or
mental health or well-being.267 The United Nations also recommends that children be placed in a
physical environment that is “in keeping with the rehabilitative aims of residential placement.”268
Staff must also consider the youth’s “needs for privacy, sensory stimuli, opportunities to associate
with their peers, and to participate in sports, physical exercise, in arts, and leisure time
The United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty were
approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990, and supported by the United
States.270 These minimum standards for the protection of youth in correctional facilities prohibit
solitary confinement, although distinguish it from brief interventions such as a “time out.”271 The
Rules state, “[a]ll disciplinary measures constituting cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment shall
be strictly prohibited, including corporal punishment, placement in a dark cell, closed or solitary
confinement or any other punishment that may compromise the physical or mental health of the
The international attention focused on eliminating the use of isolation for children is
notable and recognizes the rehabilitative nature of the juvenile justice system. For this reason,
continued application of international principles for the treatment of children is an important tool
for advocates seeking to restrict and/or abolish this practice within their own jurisdictions.
IV. STRENGTHENING POLICY AND PRACTICE TO REPLACE THE USE OF ISOLATION
While standards vary as to their limitations and specificity about the use of isolation, it is
clear that research and analysis of best practices around behavior management can be better
incorporated into the application of existing standards. Evidence-based and research-supported
work in the juvenile justice field has evolved substantially and created better tools for facility
management focused on improving outcomes. These tools can have a significant impact on the
safe and effective management of youth behaviors and minimize the need for punitive practices
such as isolation.
A. Facilities Should Adopt a System of Effective Behavior Management Practices to Replace
the Use of Isolation
Juvenile facilities can decrease dependence on the use of isolation by developing a full
range of effective behavior management alternatives, focusing on positive reinforcement rather
than punishment as the primary method of discipline and control.
Performance-based Standards are one mechanism for monitoring the behavior
management practices of a facility, including programming, following rules and responses to
misconduct, and the use of isolation, room confinement and special management units.273 The
PbS goal for facility order is “[t]o establish clear expectations of behavior and an accompanying
system of accountability for youths and staff that promote mutual respect, self-discipline and
order.”274 Since its inception in 1995, PbS has helped to change recording practices on the use of
270 U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, G.A. Res 45/113, U.N. Doc. A/Res/45/113 (Dec. 14, 1990).
272 Id. at ¶ 67.
273 See generally PERFORMANCE-BASED STANDARDS, supra note 11.
274 REDUCING ISOLATION, supra note 220, at 3. Note that PbS advisors define isolation as “any instance where a youth is confined
alone for cause or punishment for 15 minutes or more in his or her sleeping room or another room or separation unit. Exceptions are