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Create rules for use of seclusion in Nebraska’s youth facilities – LB 562

Children in our juvenile justice system deserve services that give them a true chance to succeed. This means both keeping youth in the least-restrictive setting possible, close to home and family, and for those youth who need secure care, ensuring conditions, policies, and practices that give them a real chance at meaningful treatment and rehabilitation. 

Voices for Children in Nebraska supports LB 562’s provisions which ban the use of seclusion as a punishment at all placements which serve youth in our state, and require facilities to develop clear rules and regulations on its proper use. This provision is exceptionally important, because:

  1. Seclusion is harmful to youth.  Seclusion, especially for long periods of time, negatively impacts the well-being of youth. A recent policy position of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists cited the links between solitary confinement and anxiety, depression, and psychosis, especially in the case of juvenile offenders. Similarly the Joint commission’s policy states that: “Seclusion should only be used for the least amount of time possible for the immediate physical protection of an individual, in situations where less restrictive interventions have proven ineffective. […] The use of seclusion ‘as a means of coercion, discipline, convenience or staff retaliation,’ is specifically prohibited. A lack of resources should never be a rationale for solitary confinement.” [1]
  2. Current rules, regulations, and practice subject youth to this harmful practice for long periods of time. The Nebraska Administrative Code sets out a maximum of 5 days in a security room at Nebraska’s YRTCs (401 NAC, 7-007.03D), for reasons of security, safety, or disciplinary action.  An interim study revealed youth at YRTC – Kearney spent over 100 days in seclusion each month from January – June 2012, with some youth spending as many as 10 days at a time in seclusion. Youth at YRTC-Geneva spent over 35 days in seclusion each month during the same time period, for a range of rule violations. DHHS has recently adopted a new approach to seclusion, but this should be more fully institutionalized through statute and rules and regulations. The Jail Standards Board also allows youth in juvenile detention centers to be placed in disciplinary confinement for up to 7 days (Jail Standards: Title 83, Chpt 13).

Nebraska’s juvenile justice facilities must have policies and practices that are centered on rehabilitation and not punishment. We urge the committee to act to ensure our youth are not exposed to harmful practices. Thank you.

[1] “Solitary Confinement of Juvenile Offenders,” American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/policy_statements/solitary_confinement_of_juvenile_offenders.  April 2012.

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