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Report critical of Michigan policies placing teen offenders in solitary confinement


Michigan jail and prison policies that place teenage offenders in solitary confinement are getting criticized in a new report.

“Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States,” is based on research in U.S. jails and prisons in Michigan and four other states: Colorado, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania

The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch report says putting teens in solitary does “serious harm”.   The report suggests jailers should look at alternatives to isolating offenders under the age of 18. 

Ian Kysel is the Aryeh Neier Fellow with the ACLU and HRW and author of the report.   He says solitary confinement works against “rehabilitating” youthful offenders.

“It’s simply never necessary to hold a young person in isolation for 22 or let alone 24 hours a day,” says Kysel, “Denying them contact….and denying them programming and services…works against their development.”

State Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan says Michigan’s prison system tries to use solitary confinement “as minimally as possible” with youthful offenders.    Marlan says Michigan’s diminishing state prison population has led to fewer offenders under age 18 in the state corrections system.  He says that makes the need to place teen offenders in isolation less frequent.

Researchers also looked at county jail policies in Berrien, Calhoun, Ingham, Kent, Oakland, Wayne, and Saginaw counties.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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