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May 11, 2012

"Too young to shave, but old enough for solitary"

The title of this post is the title of this recent article from the ACLU Blog of Rights, which gets started this way:

As any parent knows, teenagers are different than adults. This common-sense observation is backed by hard scientific evidence; we know that an adolescent’s brain continues to grow and develop well into his or her twenties. The fact that teenagers’ brains are still developing makes them especially vulnerable to trauma of all kinds, including the trauma of social isolation and sensory deprivation.

That’s why the leading American child psychiatry association just approved a policy statement opposing the use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities for juveniles. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry represents over 7,500 child and adolescent psychiatrists and other interested physicians.

This groundbreaking policy statement from adolescent psychiatry experts comes not a moment too soon. While recent settlements in ACLU lawsuits in Montana and Mississippi include limits on solitary confinement for youth, the practice remains alarmingly widespread, with thousands of persons under 18 held in solitary on any given day, in juvenile facilities as well as in adult jails and prisons.

May 11, 2012 at 02:29 PM | Permalink


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Oh dear.

I see my colleagues are going wack-a-mole again. I'm actually fascinated by this statement: "Furthermore, the majority of suicides in juvenile correctional facilities occur when the individual is isolated or in solitary confinement." (my emphasis)

I'd think that all juvenile suicides whether they be in correctional facilities or not would fit that criteria. Outside of a political protest or in nursing homes suicides aren't known for being public acts except in the most generic sense. Is the AACAP truly suggesting that suicides are happening in correctional facilities while fellow prisoners and guards are standing around clapping. If not, then their statement bears no relevance to the issue at hand.

Well, I'm expressed my opposition to the junk science behind this political posturing in the past. I think it discredits the art and science of the psychology profession. Sadly, though, it doesn't surprise me in the least.

Posted by: Daniel | May 11, 2012 3:27:40 PM

"The fact that teenagers’ brains are still developing makes them especially vulnerable to trauma of all kinds..."

No,the science says that kids are especially resilient.

Posted by: Me | May 11, 2012 4:05:09 PM

Yes, teen brains are different. They are superior in every way, since there is a steady loss of neurons a year. This slow dementing process is true in everyone. They are more sensitive to punishment and reward, to acculturation into non-criminal lifestyle, and to the messages sent to others by the punishment of violent offenders. One alternative to punishment and other consequences is to provide psychiatric medication. If you prohibit effective punishment, including painful corporal punishment, all that is left is treatment. Of course, such treatment is provided by the members of the child psychiatry organization. Unless they disclosed this conflict of interest, they have committed rent seeking, a form of stealing via political advocacy. Secondly, as with other professional advocacy societies, 1) they are run by staff, not by the members from around the country; 2) the staff is located in Washington DC and holds the values of that central location of rent seeking and bigger government; 3) these resolutions are dangerous because the courts defer to their false expertise, e.g. Roe v Wade was copied from an AMA resolution.

I propose an alternative to solitary confinement, repeatable as often of the prisoner asks for it by aggression, caning. Count the attacks on others in inside trials for 123D, then execute the non-responder. For incapacitation. No repeat violent offender should make it to his 18th birthday, which is the start of the peak of the criminal career. And yes, the higher crime rate of people in their 20's and 30's reflects a deterioration from the superior state of the adolescent brain.

What adolescent have less of than adults is life experience. That should be corrected with swift, certain, and highly painful corporal punishment.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 11, 2012 10:43:14 PM

A suicide need not occur while a guard is standing around for it not to meet the "isolated or in solitary confinement" criteria. A person in normal detention has a chance to kill themselves, since a guard isn't standing watch 24/7.

It doesn't surprise me that sensitive cases -- the ones likely to be "isolated or in solitary confinement" -- are more liable to commit suicide. They would be the troubled cases. Solitary at times is in fact for their protection or the protection of others. But, it is interesting that someone can be so 'fascinated' by something that isn't really that hard. It also doesn't seem to me "junk science," but a matter of numbers. What we do with them is something else.

Posted by: Joe | May 12, 2012 1:18:34 AM

"The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry concurs with the UN position and opposes the use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities for juveniles. In addition, any youth that is confined for more than 24 hours must be evaluated by a mental health professional, such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist when one is available."

No disclosure of economic self interest. Based on UN resolution. Requires hiring a member. Does not address safety or the victim of ultra-violent young offenders.

Self-dealing nonsense. Rolling Stone magazine once had a picture of a class in a California youth facility, with rows of school desks. But, each desk was enclosed in a locked cage. If one requires a locked cage to get through a school day without serious injury to staff and peers, isn't it time to go?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 12, 2012 8:41:51 AM

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