54 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
At the beginning of the Farrell litigation, however, Dr. Barry Krisberg’s findings in the
General Corrections Review revealed serious problems with the use of locked room time. During
the period he examined, approximately 10% of young people in Youth Authority were placed in
restricted programs where solitary confinement was used. Within the restricted programs 10% of
the youth were designated as mental health cases and 8% were identified as special education
cases. 85 He urged that the isolation of troubled wards with minimal social interactions could lead
to psychological deterioration. 86 Adding to these extreme conditions, youth in restricted programs
usually received educational, recreational, and counseling services in cages. 87 Krisberg noted some
seventy cages at four facilities. 88
Youth told Krisberg that they spent most of their day in lockup units sleeping or reading
because the noise and chaotic environment kept them up all night. 89 Some of the youth told him
that they began hearing voices and experiencing symptoms of other mental health problems. 90 A
large number of wards reported symptoms of severe depression, including suicidal ideation. 91
Dr. Krisberg described conditions in these lockup units as “deplorable.” 92 One such unit
had already been closed and Youth Authority Director Jerry Harper had called another unit a
“dungeon.” 93 Many were poorly lit and had terrible ventilation. 94 The cells were not well designed
to monitor potentially suicidal wards and the video equipment in some rooms was in disrepair. 95
Dr. Krisberg observed that it was difficult to reach any other conclusion than that these conditions
of confinement were designed to punish their inhabitants. 96
According to Dr. Krisberg, no other juvenile system in the country used this extreme form
of solitary confinement. 97 Further, he noted that “most psychologists and mental health
professionals would argue that this severe isolation is antithetical to sound treatment practices.
Since the invention of solitary confinement by the Philadelphia Quakers in the eighteenth century,
we have learned that this approach produces hostility and illness, not health.” 98 Sadly, within a
month of Dr. Krisberg’s report, two youth who had been in protracted lockdown hung themselves
in their cells at the Preston Youth Authority facility. 99
85 Krisberg, supra note 81, at 54.
86 Id. at 58.
87 Id. at 63.
89 Id. at 59–60.
90 Krisberg, supra note 81, at 60.
91 Id. at 60.
92 Id. at 59.