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Psychiatrists Stand Against Harmful Juvenile Justice System Policies

May 15, 2012

In a recent policy statement, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) strongly opposes the use of solitary confinement for youth in trouble with the law. The statement discusses the fact that youth are especially sensitive to the known adverse effects of solitary confinement, like anxiety and psychosis.

Not only does the AACAP agree with the United Nations' position on solitary confinement in the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, the AACAP also suggests a mental evaluation for any youth confined for more than 24 hours. (The organization carefully distinguishes solitary confinement from the more acceptable and temporary behavioral tool of “time out.”)

Similarly, last December, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the world’s largest psychiatric association, released its position on the harmful nature of another juvenile justice policy: life without parole sentences for youth. The APA states that sentences that send children to prison for life without the possibility of parole “fail to take account of the significant prospects of maturation and rehabilitation for most youthful offenders, even those convicted of serious offenses.” The APA believes that youth with lengthy sentences deserve periodic reviews by mental health professionals trained to evaluate children.

AACAP statement against solitary confinement for youth »

APA statement against youth life without parole sentences »


Photo: las-initially, under Creative Commons License

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