46 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
term “solitary” deliberately to emphasize that the imposition of locked room time does not actually
improve safety or rehabilitation and that even brief periods of solitary confinement may inflict
lasting harm. This tension in naming the practice has been a point of contention in the history of
the California legislation, 17 as discussed in section V. The legislation enacted in 2016 uses the term
“room confinement” and defines it as the placement of a youth “in a locked sleeping room or cell
with minimal or no contact with persons other than correctional facility staff and attorneys.” 18 It
specifically exempts from the definition situations where confinement is necessary for daily
operations and emergencies. 19
In this article, the authors have used the term “solitary confinement” in some places, and
elsewhere have used “room confinement,” “isolation,” or other terms denoting locked room
confinement. We have generally used the terminology used by the person or publication discussing
II. JUVENILE SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN CALIFORNIA
Although the use of locked room time had long been a feature of juvenile incarceration in
California, 20 its use greatly expanded in the latter part of the twentieth century when the U.S.
experienced a general spike in crime lasting from 1960 to 1980.21 Juvenile arrest rates peaked in
that period, 22 and policymakers responded with “get tough” measures. Although juvenile arrest
rates began a long decline after 1980, 23 public perception lagged. For more than a decade after
juvenile crime rates began to drop, policy discussions continued to center on fear of gangs and
violent juvenile crime, and employed the rhetoric of the past. 24
Juvenile Offenders, AM. ACAD. OF CHILD & ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRY (Apr. 2012),
Confinement of Juvenile Offenders, AM. PSYCH. ASSOC., https://www.apa.org/advocacy/criminal-justice/solitary.pdf
(mental health professionals); NELL BERNSTEIN ET AL., MOTHERS AT THE GATE: HOW A POWERFUL FAMILY
MOVEMENT IS TRANSFORMING THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM 18 (2016), https://ips-dc.org/wp-
content/uploads/2016/05/k-dolan-mothers-at-the-gate- 5. 3.pdf.
17 Kelly Davis, Solitary Confinement—or ‘Room Confinement’?, THE CRIME REPORT (Oct. 12, 2016),
18 CAL. WELF. & INST. CODE § 208.3(a)( 3) (2016).
19 CAL. WELF. & INST. CODE § 208.3(e)-( i) (2016).
20 See Macallair, supra note 7.
21 Crime Rates From 1980 to 2014, CAL. DEP’T OF JUST., https://openjustice.doj.ca.gov/crimes/overview (last visited
Jan. 6, 2019). After that period, California's violent and property crime rates steadily declined. Id.
22 Males, supra note 3.
23 From 1980 to 2016, the California arrest rate among those seventeen or younger dropped by eighty-four percent.
MAGNUS LOFSTROM ET AL., NEW INSIGHTS INTO CALIFORNIA ARRESTS: TRENDS, DISPARITIES, AND COUNTY
DIFFERENCES 3 (Public Policy Institute of California, Dec. 2018), available at https://www.ppic.org/publication/new-insights-into-california-arrests-trends-disparities-and-county-difference/.
24 The public’s perceptions about violent juvenile crime were fueled by prominent social scientists’ predictions. James
A. Fox, a criminologist, warned of “a blood bath of violence” that could soon wash over the land. John J. Dilulio Jr.,
then a political scientist at Princeton, proclaimed in scholarly articles and television interviews that we were about to
be overwhelmed by violent juvenile superpredators. Soon there “would be hordes upon hordes of depraved teenagers
resorting to unspeakable brutality, not tethered by conscience.” Clyde Haberman, When Youth Violence Spurred
‘Superpredator’ Fear, N.Y. TIMES (Apr. 6, 2014), https://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/us/politics/killing-on-bus-