Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a bill into law this week that would restrict the use of solitary confinement in juvenile detention centers and treatment facilities.
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks' bill (LB230) requires that other options be tried before resorting to confinement. The youth must present a serious threat to themselves or others to justify the use of confinement.
The ACLU of Nebraska said it has waged a four-year campaign, beginning in 2016, to end juvenile solitary confinement in Nebraska. It published a report “Growing Up Locked Down," and highlighted stories of people who have experienced juvenile solitary confinement.
“This is nothing short of a historic moment," said Scout Richters, ACLU of Nebraska legal and policy counsel. “We know young Nebraskans in the juvenile justice system need education, treatment and rehabilitation — not weeks and months alone in confinement. This bill stops a practice that not only undermines rehabilitation but also negatively impacts children in a way that they will carry with them for life.”
More than 600 Nebraska youth were put in room confinement over the past year with one child confined for nearly four months, she said. Though people of color represent about four out of 20 Nebraskans, the latest available data indicates 14 in 20 incidents of juvenile room confinement involve a youth of color.
Senators want to keep the staffs at these facilities safe, Pansing Brooks said during debate on the bill, but the facilities also need to be required to use the best practices to keep both staff and girls and boys there safe, she said.
"It hasn't helped the staff to traumatize the youth more than they already are traumatized," she said.