Juvenile offenders in Texas were placed in solitary confinement 36,820 times last year. That’s according to state records obtained by the civil rights group called the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.
“There’s been a lot of research about it, and the consensus seems to be that it’s pretty harmful for kids, especially kids with traumatic experience, or a kid who has a mental health concern," said Benet Magnuson, a lawyer with the coalition. "That’s actually most of the kids that we are talking about."
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry issued a policy statement last year, opposing the use of solitary confinement in juvenile justice facilities because the "potential psychiatric consequences of prolonged solitary confinement are well recognized and include depression, anxiety and psychosis." The Academy clarified that the use of shorter "time out" periods was acceptable.
But correctional officials say sometimes solitary confinement is necessary.
"When a youth is being disruptive or is assaulting somebody or has created a situation that is not safe, it's important to have a place to put the youth while they calm down," Texas Juvenile Justice Department spokesperson Jim Hurley told the Associated Press.
Each juvenile detention facility in Texas sets its own rules for when children are placed in solitary confinement. At some facilities that could include having a “disrespectful attitude,” according to an analysis by the state’s Senate Research Center of a bill that would change that policy.
That bill, SB 1517, will get a hearing Tuesday in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. It would allow solitary confinement of juvenile offenders for more than four hours only in cases of assault, escape, or attempted escape from a detention facility.