The frequency with which isolation is used is not entirely clear. For facilities that utilize
Performance-based Standards (PbS), the use of isolation and room confinement is tracked along
with other measures of facility performance.11 Facilities may otherwise maintain internal data on
how isolation is used and the frequency of its usage, at least as the agency or facility defines the
practice. A legislative corrections oversight committee in Ohio, for example, reported on the use
of isolation in its juvenile correctional facilities for a period between 2009 and 2011, which
ranged from 400,718 hours to 228,923 hours.12 A federal monitor’s report, however, noted that
during the same period, the state agency did not include data on hours spent by youth in special
management units.13 Youth in these units were frequently isolated for up to twenty-four hours a
day, sometimes for months on end, because the agency instead defined this as “programmatic
seclusion.”14 Because the definition of isolation lacks uniformity, the usage of isolation is
difficult to track.
The practice of inappropriately isolating youth can be attributed to many factors that arise
within juvenile correctional facilities. For example, in jurisdictions where staff training on
techniques to de-escalate disruptive or violent behaviors is lacking, staff are more likely to rely on
the use of restraint and solitary confinement.15 Accordingly, policies and practices must limit the
use of isolation to short periods of time and only in extreme situations when the safety of others is
at stake. When such limits are not clearly established, staff can gravitate toward easy solutions,
even for minor misconduct, and place the youth in isolation beyond the time it takes for the youth
to calm down.16 In other cases, insufficient numbers of direct care staff to adequately supervise
youth, especially in overcrowded facilities, place staff under pressure to manage situations
quickly.17 Staff may feel compelled to use isolation as a way of attempting to maintain control.18
Isolation is also used more frequently in facilities that do not have adequate policies and
procedures for dealing with youth with mental illness. This includes facilities with an inadequate
number of qualified mental health professionals to properly identify, diagnose, and treat youth
with emotional and behavioral challenges.19 Without access to mental health services, youth with
mental illness can deteriorate, causing staff to rely more heavily on the use of solitary
confinement as a response to the youth acting out. This vicious cycle can result in an
exacerbation of a youth’s mental health condition.20
11 PBS LEARNING INST., PERFORMANCE-BASED STANDARDS: SAFETY AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR JUVENILE CORRECTIONS AND
DETENTION FACILITIES 2 (2012), http://pbstandards.org/uploads/documents/PbS_Li_MarketingPacket.pdf [hereinafter
PERFORMANCE-BASED STANDARDS]. Performance-based Standards is a program developed by the Council of Juvenile Correctional
Administrators (CJCA) to improve conditions of confinement. Id. PbS addresses seven areas of facility management: safety, security,
order, health/mental health, programming, reintegration, and justice. Id. PbS collects both quantitative and qualitative data from
administrative forms, youth records, incident reports, exit interviews of youths, and climate surveys of youths and staff. Id.
12 See, e.g., CORR. INST. INSPECTION COMM., DYS SECLUSION HOURS 4 (2012) (noting decreasing use of isolation hours between
2009 and 2011 from 400,718 to 228,923).
13 See Stipulation for Injunctive Relief: Second Annual Report at 17, S.H. v Reed, 251 F.R.D. 293 (S.D. Ohio 2008) (No. 2:04-CV-
1206) (“Currently, DYS considers such youth to be in an administrative/management confinement status rather than seclusion (they do
include as seclusion hours the time an SMU youth is excluded from any out-of-room programming), but such a practice has not been
incorporated into any approved policies and procedures as required by the Stipulation.”).
15 See CTR. FOR CHILDREN’S LAW & POLICY, TESTIMONY OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN’S LAW AND POLICY FOR THE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION, CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE 4 (2012)
[hereinafter TESTIMONY], available at http://solitarywatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/center-for-childrens-law-and-policy.pdf.
17 Id. at 4-5.
20 Id. at 4; see, e.g., Plaintiff’s Motion for Specific Performance to Secure Compliance with Stipulation Terms Regarding Operation of
Progress Units and Related Matters at 15, S.H. v. Reed, 251 F.R.D. 293 (S.D. Ohio 2008) (No. 2:04-CV-1206). S.H. v. Reed (formerly
S.H. v. Stickrath) is a class action civil rights case brought on behalf of youth committed to ODYS facilities in Ohio. See id. at 1.