emotionally incapable of coping with these conditions and, as a result, are more likely to become
hardened criminals themselves.51 One statistic stands out, illustrating the effects of adult prisons
on juveniles like no other: “[S]uicide is the number one cause of death for juveniles in adult jails.”52
Recognizing this statistic, prison officials may attempt to protect juveniles by placing them in
isolation or administrative segregation.53 However, this practice may cause further damage,
because for many young people solitary confinement causes paranoia, anxiousness, and
despondency, especially among juveniles.54 In 2015, President Obama instructed the Attorney
General and the Justice Department to investigate the overuse of solitary confinement in juvenile
facilities.55 After reviewing the findings of their report, President Obama issued an executive order
banning the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons.56
Another significant difference between juvenile and adult institutions is that youth in the
juvenile system are held under the doctrine of parens patriae and, consequently, have a
constitutional or statutory right to rehabilitative treatment.57 In contrast, youth in the adult criminal
system are incarcerated under the state’s police power and have no such right.58 In addition, adult
facilities are often drastically understaffed, making it more difficult for juveniles in adult facilities
to receive proper supervision.59 Even further, juveniles lack access to educational materials,
appropriate healthcare, and other rehabilitative services in adult institutions.60
IV. JURISPRUDENCE AND JUVENILES
51 Shefi, supra note 2, at 664; see Wood, supra note 50, at 1456 (“Many juveniles can only adjust to life in adult
prisons or jails by ‘accepting violence as a part of daily life and, thus, becoming even more violent.’”).
52 Levick et al., supra note 28, at 307; see also Shefi, supra note 2, at 664 (“[Juveniles] housed in adult jails and
prisons are nearly eight times more likely to commit suicide than their adult counterparts.”). Children in adult facilities
face a heightened risk of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of other prisoners, abuse by staff, and widespread
isolation and restraint. Mendel, supra note 46, at 6–8. “[J]uveniles housed in adult prisons are 36 times more likely to
commit suicide than juveniles housed apart from adult offenders.” Jessica Lahey, The Steep Cost of Keeping Juveniles
in Adult Prisons, THE ATLANTIC (Jan. 8, 2016),
53 Levick et al., supra note 28, at 307.
54 Terry F. Hickey & Camilla Roberson, Pretrial Detention of Youth Prosecuted as Adults, 44 DEC. MD. B.J. 44, 48
An individual held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day typically begins to lose his sense of
reality, and becomes paranoid, anxious and despondent, all of which can exacerbate existing mental
health conditions. Given that many of the youth being held in adult jails have experienced some
serious trauma in their lives or have undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, they are particularly
55 Barack Obama, Why We Must Rethink Solitary Confinement, WASH. POST (Jan. 25, 2016),
confinement/2016/01/25/ 29a361f2-c384-11e5-8965-0607e0e265ce_story.html; U.S. DEP’T OF JUST., REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING THE USE OF RESTRICTIVE HOUSING (Jan. 2016),
56 Obama, supra note 55.
57 Arya, supra note 50, at 123–24 (“While children adjudicated delinquent in the juvenile system have had a statutory
and constitutional ‘right to treatment’ since the 1970s, children prosecuted in the adult system do not.”).
59 Wood, supra note 50, at 1453 (“Juvenile detention facilities generally have a ratio of one staff member to every
eight youths, while an average adult jail has a staff-to-inmate ratio of one to sixty-four.”).