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Should Juveniles Be Locked in Solitary Confinement?

Congress is taking steps toward prohibiting the use of solitary confinement against juvenile offenders. 

Earlier this month U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the MERCY Act, which would ban the use of “room confinement” in federal juvenile facilities. The bill was cosponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Mike Lee (R-UT).

“Not only is solitary confinement cruel and demeaning, it’s a violation of one’s human dignity. When imposed on adolescents, it can cause serious long-term psychological and physical harm,” Booker said in a statement.

Watch Reason TV's in-depth documentary on why placing juveniles in long-term solitary confinement may be considered cruel and unusual. Originally published on September 26, 2013 by Todd Krainin. 

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  • mnarayan||

    They are millennials are they not?

  • commodious spittoon||

    It was this or being sent to college, and college was deemed too dangerous.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    "in federal juvenile facilities"

    It bothers me tremendously that this is even a thing.

  • Paul.||

    Are we not a nation of federal laws?

  • __Warren__||

    The more government the more evil.

  • Eman||

    it takes half a fucking continent to raise a child

  • commodious spittoon||

    It takes tremendous incontinence to raise a child. Think of all the social shaming you have to do to keep the children safe.

  • TO in TX||

    ^so much this^

  • ||

    I think there's something to this.

    The whole system is rendered really dysfunctional by the WoD. Knowing that most of the people in there don't really deserve to be in there, we constantly tread these weird lines about what or what isn't appropriate treatment of prisoners.

    The original point of prison over corporal punishment was that it gives the prisoner time to reflect in isolation on what he or she did wrong in the hopes that they would repent.

    When you're just holding people indefinitely for no very good reason, you have to make some gestures toward making the whole thing more palatable.

    At the same time, some of the very worst people are attracted to the prison guard profession, so no matter how many regulations get passed to make prison more "humane," they will always be run at least in part by sadistic fucks.

    If it were only people in prison whose crimes had victims, solitary confinement for all might be the most sensible and humane way to run the place.

  • Jerryskids||

    Deserted islands with the rudiments of civilization and the tools to improve it. You can't live in a society where you're not allowed to run around raping whoever you please? Fine, here's an island full of people who think rape is fine, too. Let us know how that works out for you. Islands for the thieves, the murderers, the whatevers. You let the worst of the animals run the island and you keep on with your violent ways? You stay on the island. You set up some system whereby the island can function as a peaceful society and the animals are kept in check? Congratulations - you can come live with us again.

  • ||

    Australia?

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Australians should send *their* criminals to the UK, where they will blend in most excellently.

  • Jerryskids||

    I don't know much about Australia - how is it that the criminals sent to Australia built Australia rather than Somalia? Were the criminals more the sold-some-untaxed-cigarettes sort of criminals or is it a lesson that even criminals can be taught to live and work together more-or-less harmoniously if you stick them in a harsh enough environment or did the Brits send over a shitload more guards than I imagine?

    But, yeah, Australia. Civilization doesn't just happen, it's hard work. Some people have to have the hands-on experience to learn, though. Let the criminals try their hand at building a society and maybe they'll gain a better appreciation for why we have general rules for getting along with each other and why everybody ought to follow that one about keeping your hands to yourself.

    Next up - we send all the politicians to Venus so they can better study the manufacturing of hot air.

  • DEG||

    Note that not all Australian colonies were penal colonies. Some were free colonies which didn't accept prisoners.

  • tardisisbiggerontheinside||

    I know quite a bit about this. Forgive my showing-off..
    Australia, although known for being a prison colony, was more of a dumping ground for Englands poor than a prison. During the time this started, the KIngdom was actually going thru a terrible economic time, and people were starving. The Murderers and rapists were hanged or executed right at home, but the pettty theives, the prostitutes, the people hustling just to stay alive, they were sent off to Australia.
    THis was to A: show the appearance of being ok financially,(by hiding the poor on a different continent) and B: not having the resources to jail the prisoners, and how long does 1 stay in jail for stealing a loaf of bread?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I notice you don't have an island for non-violent drug offenders. I guess you just want them to tread water in the middle of the ocean, Hitler.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Hawaii?

  • Jerryskids||

    The non-violent drug offenders are mostly hanging out at my house and they said they didn't need an island to be chill.

  • Almanian - Trump's Woodchipper||

    Manhattan?

  • ||

  • Ted S.||

    No, like this.

  • ||

    "Reformative incarceration has been a failure"

    There's that, too. It's hard to say whether that's from the system working at cross purposes (i.e. reform vs. punishment), or whether it's foolish to think that people who are willing to victimize others are going to reform simply if they're left in a cage to reflect. I suspect it's both.

    I once worked with an ex-con who said 90% of the people in there aren't all that bad, but lack problem solving skills and impulse control and wind up afoul of the law at a young age. He felt that these people could essentially just be safely released at about age 25, as that's when most males mellow out naturally.

    The other 10%, however, according to him anyway, were actual real life sadists who run afoul of the law because they hurt people compulsively and without remorse. He felt that these people need to be sequestered from society for the duration, but solely for the safety of others - they're not ever going to think "gosh, I've been bad" except in moments of self-flattery.

    He also implied that it's not actually that hard to tell the difference between the two . . .

  • CatoTheChipper||

    Libertarian 2004 Presidential candidate Michael Badnarik proposed that convicted felons serve the first month of their sentence in bed so that their muscles would atrophy and they'd be less trouble for prison guards.

    Seriously.

  • SIV||

    Shit like this is why the last presidential candidate I voted for in a general election was Harry Browne.

  • Rhywun||

    And here I thought taking away their dumbbells was a radical idea.

  • ||

    Oh, and on topic:

    No, juveniles shouldn't even be in prison in the first place. The mouth-frothing prosecution of children as adults was just "the next step" in the keeping-up-with-the-joneses that was anti-crime hysteria in the 80s and 90s.

    "My opponent wants to wait until these thugs are 12 to lock them up? I'm the *law and order* candidate!! I'll get those crooks off the street the moment they're BORN!"

  • SIV||

    Flog 'em or hang 'em.

  • Cyto||

    This isn't even a thing any more. People not only don't recoil at the thought of locking children away, they think you are a freak if you even hint at having a problem with the concept.

    This came up recently with a case of 12 year old girls conspiring to commit murder. In a conversation with a group of friends who are uniformly the "Fox News is for evil, racist morons" type of Democrats and against my better judgement, I took the conversation in the direction of "is it wrong to charge a child as an adult". Wow, were they violently on the side of locking them away forever.

    There was not one sympathetic ear in the crowd. Even the professional Afam-studies conflict resolution, race relations professor was fully on board. Interestingly, they thought that the ability to commit heinous acts proved that they were old enough to know right from wrong and suffer the consequences. Even the ones that study adolescent decision making for a living.

    They all had child-criminals firmly in the "them" camp and were not interested in anything beyond "lock them up".

    So of course I lost my mind and told them that I was quite certain that it was much more evil to treat a prepubescent child as if they were an adult and mete out life long punishments for the things they do. It didn't go well. Heck, I couldn't even get them to agree that it was a mistake to get the justice system involved in cases of teens committing petty crimes like vandalism.

  • ||

    IIRC, the reason they are trying them as adults is not so they can lock them in prison, it's so they can continue to monitor them after they reach adulthood. For some reason, apparently, when you age out of juvie there no way for the state to keep tabs on you or make you keep seeing a psychiatrist. Seems to be a failure of the juvenile justice system.

    I think these kid clearly need mental help and that's probably not going to end when they hit 18.

  • __Warren__||

    9 to 5 is a superbly written, and arranged, but utterly vile song.

  • Ted S.||

    The Dolly Parton song, or the Sheena Easton song?

  • __Warren__||

    DP.

  • Ted S.||

    What's so vile about it?

  • __Warren__||

    The lyrics are anti-market, anti-freedom and anti-personal responsibility.

  • ||

    Eh? It's just a banal song about the daily grind.

  • Ted S.||

    And I wouldn't call the movie anti-freedom or anti-personal responsibility either. The three female leads smoke pot and get away with it; the boss who is embezzling from the company gets his comeuppance even if it's not in a court of law; and sucking up to authority is portrayed as less than virtuous.

    Granted, Lily Tomlin's character gets away with attempted manslaugher, but it's clear that what she did was negligent and not malicious.

  • Ted S.||

    Oh, and if you want an anti-libertarian song, listen to "Signs" by the Five Man Electrical Band, which is an anti-private property screed.

  • Rhywun||

    Pass.

  • Rich||

  • ||

    A) Only NOW are they taking this seriously?
    B) They actually believe that it's "Republican attacks" that have brought the story into the mainstream?

    How delusional are these people?

  • Rich||

    If by "these people" you mean the New York Times, probably pretty.

    Also, I suspect there's some major soul-searching going on in some of "her campaign".

  • DEG||

    Off topic: I see I missed a beer thread last night. I will hang my head in shame and drink more to make up for it.

    Earlier today I noted that Oktoberfestbier are available in New Hampshire. Goose Island Oktoberfest. I had some. It's not bad. I just wish that Americans would realize the proper size for an Oktoberfestbier is a liter, and that it up to the patron to ask for the baby size (half liter).

    On topic, Federal juvenile facilities? Fuck.

  • Ted S.||

    The Maß was actually more than one liter before the introduction of metric.

  • DEG||

  • Ted S.||

    Bavarians are different. I mean that in a good way, though. (My ancestors are Bavarian.)

  • DEG||

    I like Munich. I haven't toured the rest of Bavaria yet, but I want to. I hope to go back to Munich next year for Oktoberfest. My other trip to Munich was timed around The Dubliners playing a concert in Munich.

    I have many German ancestors, but I have no hard facts on where they came from, just some speculation based on things they've said.

    I found it interesting that the Austrians I know will occasionally say good things about Bavarians, but won't say good things about any other German.

  • Ted S.||

    I've always gotten the impression the rest of Germany doesn't particularly like Bavaria.

    My German relatives live in the Passau area. Not a bad place to start seeing Bavaria from, and you're not far from nice parts of Austria, either.

  • DEG||

    I've heard the rest of Germany doesn't like Bavaria. I know Bavaria has a small independence movement. The few Germans I talked with in the Cologne area mentioned that they like Munich, though the Cologne area is unusual for northern German in that it is heavily Catholic.

    I've heard Passau is nice. Another place to see!

  • Ted S.||

    Bavaria is somewhat more conservative than the rest of Germany, as they've got the CSU which is a separate Bavaria-specific branch of the governing CDU. The CSU has had an absolute majority in the Bavarian legislature for much of the past 60 years, difficult to do in a PR system. I think Bavaria has also been more successful economically than the rest of Germany.

    Passau is also a gateway to the Bayerischer Wald and a short hop to Bohemia in the Czech Republic, if your rental car contract allows you to drive into the CR.

    As for Cologne being Catholic, I was under the impression that the Rhein was more or less the dividing line between Catholic and Protestant Germany. Catholic Aachen is almost as far north as Cologne.

  • DEG||

    Yes, Aachen and Cologne are near each other and in the same state. It's a one hour train ride if I remember correctly on the ICE. I took the ICE between Cologne and Aachen, but I can't remember the train ride duration.

    The divider between northern Protestant Germany and southern Catholic Germany, from what I've heard, is the Main.

    Cologne, Aachen, and Düsseldorf all form a Catholic island in Protestant northern Germany. Ulm, in Bavaria, is a Protestant island in Catholic southern Germany.

    I haven't been to Ulm, but I know about Ulm because I heard about Ulm Minster. Another thing I want to see in Germany, and I'd like to climb to the top of its tower. Ulm Minster has a taller tower than Cologne Cathedral.

    Everything I've read about Germany says that Germany gets wealthier, a higher cost of living, and more conservative the farther south you go. There is an exception to the wealthy and cost of living rule which is Hamburg. I noted that Cologne was much cheaper than what I remember Munich being.

  • Rhywun||

    I've lived in Würzburg - northern Bavaria, on the Main. Pretty much half-and-half as you described.

    Anyway Bavaria is far and away my favorite part of Germany. It's not stuffy like the north.

    However, I thought I read somewhere that Passau (also in Bavaria) was quite poor. I could be wrong.

  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    Murica:

    "Chris Norman, a 62-year-old British businessman, rushed to help subdue the gunman after he was tackled by three holidaying Americans: student Anthony Sadler, Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman.

    Speaking to reporters Saturday, Norman recounted the terrifying moment when he realised an armed gunman was on board the train.

    “I saw someone running down the aisle to the front of the train. I stood up to see what was happening and saw a man with what I think was an AK-47,” he said.

    “My first reaction was to sit down and hide. Then I heard an American say ‘go get him’. I decided it was really the only chance was to act as a team and try to take down the assailant."

  • tardisisbiggerontheinside||

    Murica, indeed.

  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    OT: I was watching a Sargon video and he mentioned an article I hadn't seen before, but it is simply hilarious:

    "#Gamergate is really about terrorism: Why Bill Maher should be vilifying the gaming community, too"

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The dude writes for antiwar.com as well.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Almost everything (other than the fact that some violent and disturbing people need to be kept away from society) about prisons is useless and benefits no one.

    More importantly, How Growing Back My Bush Helped Me Embrace My Womanhood

    even though I looked different from the other women there, having a bush did make me feel more confident.

    Finally, someone who gets it.

  • The Hyperbole||

    I was gonna ask, but seeing that it's Crusty I'll just assume - would.

  • ||

    Author : Sandra LaMorgese Ph.D. - Author, Talk Show Host, Sexpert, Metaphysician, Motivational Speaker, Holistic Practitioner, Ordained Reverend

    "She has worked as the Director of Education for Cures, a wellness skin and body care brand, and is a sexpert, metaphysician, holistic practitioner, and ordained Reverend.
    She is also the author of Switch: Time for a Change, a memoir about how her later profession as a dominatrix ultimately allowed her to change her previously blind adherence to “the rules,” and to enter into a whole different kind of contract with a truer version of herself."

    I just can't understand why a gem like this is slumming it over at the HuffPuff.

  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    "She has worked as the Director of Education for Cures, a wellness skin and body care brand, and is a sexpert, metaphysician, holistic practitioner, and ordained Reverend.
    She is also the author of Switch: Time for a Change, a memoir about how her later profession as a dominatrix ultimately allowed her to change her previously blind adherence to “the rules,” and to enter into a whole different kind of contract with a truer version of herself."

    On the bright side, she started her career in disgusting, inexcusable jobs like holistic practitioner and reverend and then transitioned to a far nobler career as a dominatrix.

    /not a joke in any sense

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I know! Perfection.

  • Rich||

    I'll get a tan and grow back my bush! Both of these were big leaps for me.

    Well, I suppose they were, compared to getting a Ph. D. in metaphysical science.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I see CNN hasn't gotten around to reporting that the Bangkok bomber has been identified as one Mohamad Museyin. But, hey! Here's a moron who thinks Huggies manufactures their baby wipes with glass shards woven into the fabric!

  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    Wow, there sure are some immensely stupid parents out there.

  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    Ha:

    "After hearing about the reports from her friends, Patterson said she checked her wipes and found what everyone else had been talking about.

    In fact, she said her son has had a rash ever since she started using the wipes on him last month."

    If you think you're rubbing glass shards all over your child and all it's given them is a rash, I think you've given birth to Superman.

  • The Hyperbole||

    So her son has a month old rash, and its the wipes fault? I guess you can't just throw away good wipes, wouldn't be frugal.

  • lap83||

    "In fact, she said her son has had a rash ever since she started using the wipes on him last month."

    Maybe over-sensitivity runs in the family

  • ||

    Yesterday morning I left NBC news on to see if they would say anything about Hillary's felonies.

    About 3/4 the way through my wife screamed "That's not News!" and changed the channel. The report that was on was something about how people probably shouldn't eat so much sugar and they were plugging an upcoming segment on how to have a happy marriage.

    Fucking pablum.

  • ||

    I'm a wierdo, but on some level I don't get what's supposed to be so terrible about solitary confinement.

    Personally, I imagine I would just spend a lot of time doing yoga and meditating.
    I don't really like other people that much anyway.

  • kbolino||

    Lack of socialization apparently does funny things to the human psyche. At the very least, one could observe that being held in solitary confinement is undesirable for most prisoners. I don't really see a need to lead a crusade here; the problem isn't solitary per se, it's the use of solitary (or any punitive measure) for petty reasons. Unfortunately, addressing such a problem is almost impossible (quis custodiet ipsos custodes?).

  • JeremyR||

    Yeah, but doesn't rape?

    If the choice is between having my own cell and getting raped by my cell mate, I'm going to go with having my own cell.

    And if socialization is the government's concern, does this mean they should be giving people free memberships to dating sites?

  • kbolino||

    I think the "solution" to the socialization problem is to bring back corporal punishment. It's like prison with work release on steroids; then penalty is brief but severe, enough to remind you of the wrong without destroying your life.

    As to people who actually belong in prison, like rapists and murderers, socialization is not a problem the government needs to care about. Lock em all in solitary (or don't); the job of prison is to keep dangerous people out of society.

  • Ted S.||

    There is the problem of the wrongly convicted.

  • kbolino||

    A problem that afflicts every system of crime and punishment. Given the premises we are working with, corporal punishment wins out over the death penalty* pretty obviously and IMO over "rehabilition" through prison. The effect is generally impermanent (the aim is the psychological effect, not the pain per se) and short in duration (I'm not talking about the Passion of Christ, here). I will freely admit that the devil is in the details, however (a "good" system poorly implemented is not better than a "bad" system well implemented).

    * = Most cases where the death penalty might apply wouldn't fall into the category of "minor crimes" that I think is best addressed through corporal punishment; it's a false dichotomy in practical terms.

  • kbolino||

    For the record, what we have now is a bad system poorly implemented; i.e., the worst of both worlds.

  • Rhywun||

    If the choice is between having my own cell and getting raped by my cell mate, I'm going to go with having my own cell.

    So much this. To me the most terrifying part of prison would be having to share a room with - who knows what.

  • __Warren__||

    The comedian post has disappeared! Conspiracy?!?!?! Jew-men?!?!?!

  • The Hyperbole||

    Oh good, for a minute there I was worried that I imagined the whole thing.

  • Ted S.||

    Are you talking about this post?

  • JeremyR||

    I've never understood why being in solitary confinement is a bad thing. Lots of people live alone.

    I'd much rather have my own private jail cell than share it with someone who is a criminal and will possibly rape or harass me.

  • Almanian - Trump's Woodchipper||

    Oh, come on - you KNOW you'd welcome the rape, at least. Admit it.

  • Jay Dubya||

    Jesus Christ there is some ignorance in this thread. Solitary means different things in different prisons but it goes beyond "living alone". It is not a lack of socialozation but a lack of all stimuli. No TV,no internet, no writing materials, often no reading materials. Lights always on. Room the size of a broom closet which includes a toilet and a bedroll. There are prisoners in California who have done 20-30 years that way.

    It will break you. It breaks everyone. Thats why its there.

    Im sure you probably think straight jackets are no big deal, because your arms are usually at your side anyway. And of course who would complain about waterboarding when talking a shower is an everyday event?

  • ||

    You should start calling it something else then, because "solitary" doesn't really do justice to the concept. Lots of people like solitude. Not many people like sleeping with the lights on.

  • Lord at War||

    J Dub-

    How much time have you done?

    How much "solitary" is appropriate for a 15 yr old? For referring to a gym class doing "disco" (in 1980- disco was already dead!) as "nigger dancing"?

    Not "adult solitary", where you get an hour in the yard everyday- but where you only get ten minutes before 6 AM wake-up callto shit and shower, and a piss break on every shift change. My only book was a bible

    Of the 9+ months I served, I spent 77 days straight in a 7x9 cell for over 23 1/2 hrs every day. Once a week, they wanted me to admit I was wrong- that wasn't happening. I was actually "straight-jacketed" to my bed twice- for three days each time- for doing push-ups.

    I served three months longer for a burglary than a guy in for assault w/ deadly weapon who ate his Speed-Stick to get a trip to the hospital, then escaped for a month while there... simply because I said "nigger" and wouldn't apologize.

  • kbolino||

    Assuming your description of your own behavior and the reasoning of the prison staff is fairly accurate and you are not omitting any relevant details, then this is exactly the sort of abuse that should be addressed. The problem is that there are some individuals, even juveniles, for whom the full punishment of solitary is entirely appropriate, even if only for the protection of guards and other inmates. Ruling it out entirely will help individuals like you but only from the guards; the other inmates could be a far greater problem. The division of inmates into different levels of security might address the issue when solitary is off the table, but it is less granular and may end up just as prone to abuse.

  • kbolino||

    Talking about lack of socialization was not meant to imply on my part that solitary confinement was no big deal or that there aren't other things prisoners in solitary are deprived of. The thing is that nobody gives a shit when a raping, gangbanging murderer is treated like that. No amount of explaining the severity of the punishment will matter; for the most part, people will think it's still less than what he deserves. The problem is that half of the in a discussion about crime and punishment see every criminal as equal to the worst, and the other half see every prisoner as equal to the best. There are well behaved prisoners who committed minor crimes (and non-crimes from a libertarian perspective) and there are violently ill tempered criminals who committed heinous crimes; there are also a lot of prisoners who have committed mid-level offenses and have the behavior to match. Prison is the go-to solution for all of these individuals, and it doesn't make any sense for most of them.

  • Almanian - Trump's Woodchipper||

    OT: Superb ride on the Ninja this afternoon. Weather is just PERFECT for riding in Michigan - high 70's, low 80's, low humidity, sunny. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

    That means winter's just around the corner. #PureMichigan

  • DEG||

    Trees are turning color in southern NH. Some maples are quite early.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I thought we all agreed that they should all be placed on an islind sans LOTF.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I thought we all agreed that they should all be placed on an islind sans LOTF.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Island like lotf

  • Agile Cyborg||

    I don't give a fuck what happened above in spite of the fuck I love my sweet boys and the couple girls here...

    It. is. simple. Solitary confinement exists because the prison system is managed by people with tiny IQ's and tiny IQ's work in these places accordingly.

    Send Agile Cyborg into ANY branch of governance-

    I can upend it and educate it and cause it to understand humanity....

    because modern prisons are managed by dumb fucks who go home and eat bologna sandwiches every fucking night.

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