Isolation is an emotionally, psychologically, and often physically harmful technique that
is significantly and inappropriately overused in juvenile facilities to control behavior. The current
legal and professional standards must assure procedural due process protections for youth placed
in isolation. These standards must also be applied with greater attention to evidence-based
practices, which are effective in managing behaviors, and incorporate a stronger harm-based
analysis. Challenges to the use of isolation, under the Fourteenth or Eighth Amendment rubrics,
can be supported by tools such as PbS and the application of effective behavior management
techniques that call into question the use of isolating youth as unnecessary and harmful.
Identifying harmful effects on youthful offenders, particularly those who are especially
vulnerable because of prior traumatization, mental health issues, and immaturity, is critical to
inform professional judgment and in the appropriate application of standards.
Isolation does not have the purported benefits of safety, punishment, or deterrence in
juvenile facilities. Its use has been imported from the adult system and has been proven to be
harmful and costly. The continued use of this practice should be closely examined and additional
research and models of behavior management should be encouraged. The field of juvenile
corrections is increasingly embracing the use of evidence-based and research-informed practices.
It is time to utilize this research base to eradicate the harmful use of socially isolating youth who
are entitled to treatment and rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system.