Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

DOJ Releases Survey Results on Conditions in Juvenile Jails

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Less than half of youth in state custody (whether residential placement or a juvenile detention center) report having access to a lawyer. That and other statistics are available in the new report, “Conditions of Confinement: Findings from the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement,” published by the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The study is based on a survey of a representative sample of youth in custody, so keep in mind the limitations of self-reported data as you read the report. Here are some other data points that may be of particular interest to readers of this blog:

  • Notice of rules: 75% of youth report they received a copy of the rules in their facility, 90% feel the rules are fair, and 75% feel they apply equally to all residents.
  • Grievance process: 19% say they don’t know how to file a complaint, and 20% say they are concerned about retribution if they do.
  • Fairness of punishment: Half of youth report that staff impose punishment without cause, over one-third think that staff use unnecessary force, and less than one-third say punishments are fair.
  • Solitary confinement: Almost one-fourth of youth report being placed in solitary confinement as punishment. Over one-third report being isolated in some way (either sent to their room with no contact with other residents, or placed in a separate lock-up). Of those who were isolated, over half say their isolation lasted longer than 24 hours.
  • Physical restraint: Over one-fourth of youth report that staff have used some form of restraint on them, whether handcuffs, wristlets, a security belt, chains, or a restraint chair. Just 4% report being placed in a restraint chair and 7% report being pepper sprayed. These last-resort restraints may have effects beyond the individuals on whom they’re used: 30% report living in a unit where one or more residents was pepper sprayed, and 29% report living in a unit where one or more residents was placed in a restraint chair.

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