How Long can Juveniles in California be put in Solitary Confinement?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

A new California law limits the duration minors can be placed in solitary confinement. Minors in juvenile detention centers can only be held in solitary confinement for up to 4 (four) hours, absent special circumstances. On January 1, 2018, the California State Legislature enacted specific guidelines concerning minors in solitary confinement in a juvenile detention facility.  Previously, there were no guidelines. 

What is room confinement? 

First, you will not find the term “solitary confinement” in Section 208.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.  Section 208.3 replaces the term solitary confinement with “room confinement.”  Room confinement is defined as placing the minor in a locked room or cell with minimal or no contact with persons other than correctional facility staff and attorneys. 

Room confinement is not and should not be the first and only solution to a problem in a juvenile detention facility.  Under the code, room confinement is only an option when all other less restrictive options are exhausted.  However, if the less restrictive options pose a threat to the safety or security of any other minor, ward, or staff member, then the minor will be placed in room confinement. 

Additionally, Section 208.3 dictates that solitary confinement cannot serve as a punishment, or used for coercion, convenience, retaliation. It also cannot compromise the mental and physical health of the minor.   

How long can a minor be held in room confinement? 

Generally, a minor cannot be held in room confinement for an extended or unreasonable period of time.  Section 208.3 places a four-hour maximum time limit for room confinement.  After the four-hour period has expired, the minor must either be released to the general population, consulted with by the medical staff, or the juvenile staff must develop an individualized plan of reintegration.  This individualized plan should include the goals and objectives that must be met before the minor is reintegrate into the general population.

Can a juvenile detention facility extend the four-hour maximum? 

Yes. There are exceptions to the general rule.  There are situations when a minor can be in room confinement beyond the four-hour maximum time period.  However, the staff at the juvenile facility must follow specific guidelines to ensure the general welfare of the minor.  If room confinement must be extended beyond the four hour maximum, the correctional staff must:

(1) document the reason for the confinement, the basis for the extension, the date and time the minor or ward was first placed in room confinement, and when he or she is eventually released from room confinement.

(2) develop an individualized plan that includes the goals and objectives to be met in order to reintegrate the minor or ward to the general population.

(3) obtain documented authorization by the facility superintendent or his or her designee every four hours thereafter.

Please note that this section does not apply to minors housed in adult or holding facilities.

Some of the facilities to which the new law applies include the Eastlake Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles, the San Bernardino Juvenile Hall on Gilbert Street and the Kearny Mesa Juvenile Hall Detention Facility in San Diego. 

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).


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