60 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
forced to eat all meals in their rooms and frequently could not leave their rooms for showers,
exercise, recreation, or education.145
In 1994, another case was filed against Kern County, alleging that children in county
facilities were disciplined by being forced to stay in their room continuously on “room restriction”
and “on tag,” which amounted to isolation.146 While on that status, the youth had to eat meals in
their room and could not go outside for exercise, recreation, or education.147 Youth were placed
on that status for four-to-forty-eight hours for minor infractions, or three-to-five days for major
A 1990 case involving conditions in San Diego facilities revealed that, because of the
crowded conditions and the difficult logistics involved in transporting youth to and from various
activities, they were locked in their rooms an average of thirteen-to-fourteen hours a day.149
In 1991, the United States Department of Justice (Department) assailed the arbitrary use of
isolation and inadequate monitoring in San Francisco’s Youth Guidance Center. 150 The
Department found the situation particularly disturbing because it had previously advised city
officials on at least three separate occasions that juveniles housed at the facility were exposed to
J. A History of Weak Oversight of Juvenile Facilities
Historically, neither state nor county systems had a rigorous system for oversight. The
workings of the California Youth Authority were largely unseen by the outside community.
and sheets; full meals; a full complement of clean clothes, including a change of undergarments and socks; items
necessary for personal hygiene, including soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, towels, toilet paper, a shower, and
access to a toilet and water fountain as needed; and writing materials, including pen, pencils, paper and a writing
surface; 1 hour of out of room exercise; access to attorneys; and the right to send unopened mail and receive mail
opened only in their presence. Settlement Agreement and Order Re: Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Damages,
Jane G. v. Solano County, No. CIVS-84-0080 RAR (E.D. Cal. 1984),
145 Civil Rights Complaint: Class Action for Injunctive, Declaratory and Equitable Relief and Damages, at 6–7.
146 Steven L. v. Kern County, CIV. Civ. No. CV-F-83-189 EDP (E.D. Cal 1984), First Complaint, at 10,
148 Id. The case settlement in Steven L. prohibited the use of isolation as treatment or punishment, and allowed it to be
used only in cases in which the youth presents a serious and immediate physical threat to him/herself, other detainees
or staff members, where prescribed by a psychiatrist, or at the request of the minor, and only after all other less
restrictive methods of control have been considered or have been tried and failed. The period of isolation was to be
only so long as needed to accomplish the objective of isolation, and in the event that a staff mental health professional
or nurse is not on duty and the facility determines that a child should not be released from isolation after three hours,
then the facility was required to consult with a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric aide, or other mental health
professional and appropriate treatment begun. The place of isolation was to be adequately lighted, heated, and
ventilated. Room restriction for disciplinary purposes was subject to due process, conditions of confinement, and was
not to exceed 48 hours. Steven L. v. Kern County, CIV. Civ. No. CV-F-83-189 EDP (E.D. Cal 1984), Settlement
Agreement, 7-14 (Mar. 18, 1991).
149 However, the trial court did not find this arose to a constitutional violation. Keith G. v. Bilbray (Cal. 1995) 43
Cal.Rptr.2d 277, 28, remanded, 912 P.2d 1147 (Cal. 1996).
150 Letter from John R. Dunne, Assistant Attorney General, Civ. Rts. Div., U.S. Dep’t of Just., to Art Agnos, Mayor 2
(June 12, 1991), https://www.clearinghouse.net/chDocs/public/JI-CA-0002-0001.pdf [hereinafter Letter from John R.