Solitary Confinement of Youth in Onondaga County Finally Ended

Please find below an official statement from The Criminal Justice Task Force on the recent legal victory ending solitary confinement of youth in Onondaga County:

Solitary Confinement of Youth in Onondaga County Finally Ended

After more than two years of struggle, the Criminal Justice Task Force of ACTS (CJTF) is extremely pleased to congratulate the New York Civil Liberties Union and Legal Services of Central New York for the great victory won Wednesday in the lawsuit brought to stop the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department from subjecting 16- and 17-year-old children to solitary confinement in the Justice Center.

The Criminal Justice Task Force of ACTS worked tirelessly to end this abhorrent practice since January 2015 when the issue was first brought forward by The Grace Project, a ministry of Grace Episcopal Church, Syracuse. In the decision, the Court substantially adopted the position which CJTF has advocated from the beginning, and found that the use of solitary confinement for children violates or is substantially likely to violate the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment because it is well known that solitary confinement is likely to harm the psychological health of children.

The Court also found that the children at the Justice Center are sexually harassed by adults, housed in disgusting conditions, denied education and, in some cases, pushed to contemplating suicide. Children were routinely sent to solitary for “offenses” such as speaking loudly or wearing the wrong shoes. The Syracuse City School District, also a defendant in the lawsuit, is accused of failing to provide an adequate education to the youth being held in the Justice Center, and will now be required to provide comprehensive instruction to all youth confined there.

While the lawsuit will continue, the Court’s preliminary injunction means that until final resolution, no youth will be subjected to the horrendous conditions that led to the litigation in the first place. The Criminal Justice Task Force of ACTS will continue to closely monitor conditions at the Justice Center, and will take whatever further actions are necessary to protect the youth incarcerated at the Justice Center from any further harmful practices.

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