Youth Counseling Topics

State Department of Corrections files youth prison plans

Interesting article concerning the treatment of teenage inmates. There are many ways to positively encourage the correct behavior, but using force and solitary confinement are not on my list.

Complying with a federal judge’s order, the state Department of Corrections filed its plan Friday to reduce the use of pepper spray, restraints and solitary confinements for teen inmates.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson gave the DOC two weeks to work with the attorneys representing the current and former inmates at Wisconsin’s youth prison suing the department and create the plan.

In his ruling June 23, Peterson said the DOC’s practices of routinely using pepper spray, shackles and solitary confinement likely violate the inmates’ constitutional rights and that prison administers demonstrated “callous indifference” to the harm inflicted on the inmates because of these practices.

The plan meets Peterson’s requirement that inmates not be kept in solitary confinement for more than seven days while increasing time outside of their cells while in isolation and that staff use alternates to pepper spray and evaluate an inmates need for shackles on a case-by-case basis. Some of the details, such as the implementation time frames for the new policies, could not be agreed upon by the DOC and lawyers for the inmates.

The plan states that Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons will only use solitary confinement as a punishment for violent offenses. The DOC and plaintiffs could not agree on some of the details of how solitary confinement is used for inmates with mental health diagnoses — the plaintiffs said solitary confinement should not be used under any circumstances for these inmates, according to the document.

The amount of time an inmate can be kept in solitary confinement was also debated in the document — the DOC says seven days and the plaintiffs say only 3.

The plaintiffs also asked for more time outside of confinement each day. They wrote that inmates should have eight hours of “out time” from his or her solitary cell with six of those hours of structured activities.

The DOC asked for more leeway in “out time” for inmates to allow for staffing fluctuations. The DOC would set a minimum of two hours of “out time” per day and a minimum of 30 hours per week.

The use of chemical agents would also be limited only to “when a youth is engaging in physical harm to others or to prevent the youth causing bodily harm to another,” according to the proposed plan.