Facilities with poorly designed behavior management programs and a lack of structured
programming also tend to rely on isolation practices to sanction misconduct.21 Acknowledging
and rewarding compliance and building on the strengths of a youth has been shown to be more
effective than employing behavior management techniques focused primarily on punishment and
control.22 Similarly, it is easier to manage behaviors when youth are kept busy, and have the
majority of awake hours occupied in productive ways.23 Accordingly, effective programming
does not rely on the use of isolation to manage behavior, a practice that can be harmful and
counterproductive to young people in custodial care.
A. The Harmful Effects of Isolation Practices on Adolescents
Adolescents require a higher standard of care in correctional facilities because the risk of
harm from the use of isolation is greater. Isolation can not only exacerbate the symptoms of
mental illness and result in further traumatization, but it can also create mental illness in youth
who have not previously exhibited symptomology. This is particularly true of youth with
depression, suicidal ideation, and those with Adult Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or
mood disorders. Isolating youth may also deny them necessary services such as education,
mental health, and recreation.
1. A Higher Standard of Care Is Required for Adolescents than Their Adult Counterparts
The concept of “developmental immaturity” is used by researchers to describe adolescent
development and the emerging neurological, cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and social
capacity.24 Specifically, researchers note four key components of developmental immaturity that
distinguish adolescents from adults: independent functioning, decision-making, emotion
regulation, and general cognitive processing.25 In short, adolescents lack maturity in decision-
making, are more likely to act impulsively, and are more likely to be influenced and manipulated
Recently, the Supreme Court recognized these differences in a series of cases
acknowledging that adolescents are “more vulnerable, more susceptible to outside pressures, and
more capable of change than their adult counterparts.”27 Not only is the impact of harm from
isolation more significant on youth than adults, but also the expectation of treatment and effective
Pleadings filed by Plaintiffs’ counsel alleged that youth were held in special management units for months, and years in some cases,
often spending as much as twenty-four hours a day in their rooms. Id. at 5. Many if not most of these youth were diagnosed with
“mental health issues, histories of trauma, and/or cognitive delays, which have a significant effect on behaviors.” Id. at 7.
21 TESTIMONY, supra note 15, at 5.
22 MARK W. LIPSEY ET AL., GEORGETOWN UNIV. CTR. FOR JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM, IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF JUVENILE
JUSTICE PROGRAMS: A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON EVIDENCED-BASED PRACTICE 23-24 (2010). The analysis of juvenile justice programs
varied between those which were therapeutic with restorative practices, skill building, and counseling as compared to those utilizing
control, surveillance, and managing by fear. Id. “When the mean effects on reoffense rates were compared for the programs associated
with these two broad approaches, the programs with a therapeutic philosophy were notably more effective than those with a control
philosophy.” Id. at 24.
23 TESTIMONY, supra note 15, at 5.
24 Marsha Levick et al., The Eighth Amendment Evolves: Defining Cruel and Unusual Punishment Through the Lens of Childhood and
Adolescence, 15 U. PA. J.L. & SOC. CHANGE 285, 293 (2012) (citing Kathleen Kemp et al., Characteristics of Developmental
Immaturity: A Cross-Disciplinary Survey of Psychologists 7 (Aug. 2010) (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Drexel University) (on file
with Hagerty Library, Drexel University)).
27 Id. at 306. The Supreme Court decisions in Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, Miller v. Alabama, and J.D.B. v. North Carolina
forced a re-examination of juvenile and criminal justice policies and practices based on the “evolving standards of decency” doctrine
under the Eighth Amendment, and utilized developmental psychology concepts to the treatment of children from adults. Id.