vulnerable group—children. According to the Justice Department, 35% of juveniles in custody
report being held in solitary for some time. The mental health effects of even short periods of
isolation—including depression and risk of suicide—are heightened in youth.”231
The Congressional hearings had a synchronistic effect on reform efforts in California.
Many California advocacy organizations submitted written testimony for one or both hearings;232
the hearings themselves and the extensive materials submitted by others enhanced California’s
efforts. The hearings underlined the importance of the issue and the fact that California was part
of a national movement for change.
2. Executive Action by President Obama and a Resolution by the Juvenile Judges
Eventually, President Barack Obama himself stepped into the solitary confinement debate.
In January 2016, the Washington Post published Obama’s op-ed, which referred to Kalief
Browder’s tragic experience and stated that he had directed Attorney General Loretta Lynch to
review the overuse of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.233 President Obama announced the
completion of that review and that he would be adopting the Department of Justice’s
recommendations, which included banning solitary confinement for juveniles.234 Though the
federal policy had very little practical impact—only thirty youth fell under federal jurisdiction235
–—it held enormous symbolic importance in underlining the significance of the issues.
Later that year, on August 8, 2016, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court
Judges adopted a resolution on reducing the use of solitary confinement for youth.236 This was
important because the National Council is the largest organization of juvenile judicial officers in
the country, with a long record of involvement in juvenile system policy.237 The resolution
referenced President Obama’s January 2016 ban on solitary confinement for youth in federal
233 Barack Obama, Why we must rethink solitary confinement, THE WASH. POST (Jan. 25, 2016),
see also Fact Sheet: Department of Justice Review of Solitary Confinement, OBAMA WHITE HOUSE, (Jan. 25, 2016),
confinement. The U.S. Department of Justice released its report on the use of “restrict housing” in January 2016. U.S.
DEP’T OF JUST., REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING THE USE OF RESTRICTIVE HOUSING 1 (Jan. 2016),
235 Beth Schwartzapfel, There Are Practically No Juveniles in Federal Prison — Here’s Why, THE MARSHALL
PROJECT (Jan. 27, 2016), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/01/27/there-are-practically-no-juveniles-in-
236 NAT’L COUNCIL OF JUV. & FAM CT. JJ., RESOLUTION REGARDING REDUCING THE USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
FOR YOUTH 1 (Aug. 8, 2016), http://www.ncjfcj.org/sites/default/files/Final_SolitaryConfinementResolution_8_6-
2016.pdf [hereinafter RESOLUTION REGARDING REDUCING THE USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR YOUTH]. In the
resolution, NCJFCJ defined solitary confinement “as the involuntary placement of a youth alone in a cell, room, or
other area for any reason other than as a temporary response to behavior that threatens immediate harm to the youth
or others.” The resolution further noted the other terms used: “seclusion,” “isolation,” “segregation,” and “room