Raleigh, NC: In the wake of President Obama’s ban on solitary confinement for youth in federal prisons, Disability Rights NC renews its call for Commissioner of Adult Correction & Juvenile Justice David W. Guice to do the same for youth in North Carolina’s state prisons.

“These are young people who need help, and solitary confinement does the opposite, causing long-lasting psychological harm. Paranoia, hallucinations, difficulties with impulse control, depression, aggression, even suicidal ideation…the science shows isolation contributes to mental illness. It’s simply not right to subject struggling youth to this abusive practice,” said Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights NC.

Disability Rights NC has found in its periodic checks of the state’s juvenile prison population that the percentage of 16- to 17-year-old youth in restrictive housing has ranged from 21 percent to 38 percent over the past year. In addition to calling for the end to segregated confinement, Disability Rights NC calls for better conditions for youth who are placed in restrictive housing, including more physical exercise and mental health assessments.

President Obama’s newly issued rules ban restrictive housing for juveniles, only allowing temporary placement in restrictive housing in response to a behavioral issue that poses a serious and immediate risk to any individual. 

In a Washington Post opinion editorial, President Obama commented, “Some studies indicate that [solitary confinement] can worsen existing mental illnesses and even trigger new ones. Prisoners in solitary are more likely to commit suicide, especially juveniles and people with mental illnesses.”