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A Local Take On Solitary Confinement For Minors

Ken Mayer

President Barack Obama recently issued an executive order that bans the use of solitary confinement on juvenile offenders in federal prisons. Reno Public Radio’s Marcus Lavergne got a local expert’s take on this change. 

In most cases, juveniles locked in solitary confinement cells will experience limited contact and long periods without much natural light. This can be for days, weeks or even months.

Shawn Marsh is with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. He says the practice is abusive and counterproductive.

“We think it’s particularly damaging for children and adolescents because of their developmental stage,” Marsh says. “We know that their brains are forming at this time. Particularly in the teenage years, the peer group and social groups become an extremely important part of development.”

According to Marsh, solitary confinement hinders rehabilitation:

“The problem is it backfires. We see depression, anxiety, psychosis, hallucinations, people having a very hard time putting their thoughts together, so it’s ultimately very damaging.”

Marsh says there are alternatives, including programs that reinforce positive behaviors.  


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