Stop Putting Children with Mental Disorders in Solitary Confinement

Target: Contra Costa County Office of Education

Goal: Stop locking disabled juvenile delinquents in solitary confinement

In the San Francisco Bay Area, in Contra Costa County, a class action lawsuit was filed by disability rights advocates on behalf of a teenage girl and two teenage boys who were detained in a maximum-security juvenile hall where they were locked in solitary confinement, in a 12-by-12 foot cell, despite having a disability. Demand that the Contra Costa County juvenile hall stop placing children with disabilities in solitary confinement, which can be detrimental to their mental and emotional health.

Many kids placed in solitary confinement within juvenile halls have mental health disabilities. “This is obviously sometimes why they end up in juvenile hall,” says Mary-Lee Smith, Disability Rights Advocates’ managing attorney. The Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall is known for locking up children with ADHD, bipolar disorder and other mental disabilities when they misbehave, sometimes for as long as 23 hours at a time. Solitary confinement only exasperates the outburst, making it worse instead of alleviating and punishing it. The Contra Costa Times reports that solitary confinement has been shown to cause “paranoia, anxiety and depression” and increases the risk of suicide.

Students with disabilities are also being denied special education during their time in juvenile hall, even though they are legally entitled to free, public education. One teenager was sent to a juvenile facility after a diagnosis of psychosis and schizophrenia. He spent about 90 days in solitary confinement, where he reportedly heard voices, experienced hallucinations, and exhibited unusual behaviors until he was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. This young man would not have spiraled to such a low had he not been isolated in solitary confinement, with authorities being aware of his mental health diagnosis.

Demand that the Contra Costa County Office of Education advocate for teens placed in juvenile hall, protecting children with mental health disorders and other disabilities from being cruelly placed in solitary confinement.


Dear Contra Costa County Office of Education,

Please advocate for children with disabilities in your community by placing a ban on solitary confinement in the juvenile detention center. Juveniles with mental health disorders and other disabilities are suing the county for being placed in solitary confinement, which does serious damage to individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions.

Solitary confinement has been shown to cause “paranoia, anxiety and depression,” and even increase the risk of suicide. Please demand that the county juvenile hall stop placing teens in solitary confinement, to protect them from further mental disorder outbursts.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Michael Cabral via New American Media

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