skills, or simply talk with a staff member about their struggles.380 The results so far are stunning.
In October of 2010, youth spent an average of 28. 3 hours in "program restriction" per month (often
a euphemism for solitary confinement). By April of 2017, the rate of room confinement was just
1. 6 hours per month.381 Developing “the Cove” cost only $5000, and staff painted the underwater
themed murals themselves.382 Chief Probation Officer Lee Seale recognizes the critical importance
of staff involvement in crafting the new practices: "When you have management that's pushing it
from the top down, you're just going to run into friction and it doesn't work."383 He welcomes the
opportunity to work with other counties in developing these kinds of alternatives to locked room
The Sacramento program shows how having “buy in” and involvement of line staff can
play a critical role in moving away from locked room confinement, but more is needed.
Administrators must also assure that staff have the other tools they need. They need to assure that
the facility has high quality programming so youth are stimulated in positive ways. They must
assure prompt access to mental health intervention to help in crisis situations. They should
implement systems of positive behavior management to help reduce the need for punitive
measures. And finally, they must assure that staff work in conditions with adequate staffing to
proactively intervene in situations that may otherwise result in use of locked room time, and to
provide extra support for youth in crisis.385
Staff working in many facilities have spent their whole careers thinking of locked room
confinement as the fallback tool for a variety of situations. It will take conscious effort for them to
develop a new set of responses to address emergencies, conflict, and discipline in ways that limit
confinement. Particularly in the initial implementation phase, staff will need to receive ongoing
training to help cement a philosophy of treatment that recognizes the harm of locked room time—
even when it is ostensibly imposed for benevolent purposes. They will also need practical training
on alternative ways to address misbehavior and situations calling for protection of the young
person or others, consistent with the new law.
Those with oversight powers must stay engaged and alert to assure a proper response if
problems occur as the new law is implemented. In California, the new regulations will provide
much needed guidance for the Board of State and Community Corrections inspections that take
380 Molly McCluskey, Sacramento's Quest To End Solitary Confinement For Kids, Pacific Standard (Apr. 5, 12018).
This is one of a series of innovations instituted by Chief Probation Officer Lee Seale, who took over in wake of a
lawsuit that had alleged “excessive force, deliberate indifference to serious medical and psychological needs, and
conscience-shocking conduct.” Seale also restored a disused swimming pool, instituted a “Beat the Chief” ping pong
tournament, and started a Boys and Girls Club in an used wing of the facility, with a goal of creating a positive
environment where youth “feel like they can put it all behind them, go to school, get a degree, get their record sealed,
and be successful." Parent et al., supra note 379.
381 McCluskey, supra note 380.
385 Unfortunately, in the most recent regulation revisions process, California state elected not to adopt the 1: 8 juvenile
facility staffing ratios called for in the Prison Rape Elimination Act. 28 C.F.R. § 115.313 (c) (2012) (requiring one
security staff member per eight juvenile residents during waking hours, and 1: 16 during sleeping hours). For the
present, California standards require only 1: 10 staff ratios during waking hours and 1: 30 during sleeping hours. 15
CAL. BOARD OF ST. & COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS, TITLE 15 MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR JUVENILE FACILITIES, 15 CAL.
CODE OF REGS. § 1321(h)( 1) (2014).