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Following Settlement, Use of Seclusion Plummets in Ohio Juvenile Prisons

On May 21, 2014, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and private plaintiffs announced a settlement agreement with Ohio requiring the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) to dramatically reduce and eventually eliminate the use of seclusion. DYS policy 305.05.04 defines seclusion as the involuntary confinement of a youth alone in his or her own room or in a safe room for a brief period. The DOJ began investigating DYS prisons in 2007 and reached its first settlement regarding them in 2008 before concluding the aforementioned second settlement.

According to then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the latter settlement requires the DYS to "ensure that young people in its juvenile facilities receive individualized mental-health treatment to prevent and address the conditions and behaviors that led to seclusion."

The average annual seclusion per youth dropped 66.5% in two years from 488.8 hours (19.1 days) in 2012 to 152.8 hours (6.4 days) in 2014. The annual number of DYS seclusion hours decreased 64.8% over two years to 66,027 in 2014.

Even within 2014, the decrease in seclusion was dramatic. In January 2014, there were over 15,000 hours of seclusion in the DYS. By December, there were barely 1,000. If this trend continues, there should have been well under 15,000 total seclusion hours in 2015.

A reduction in violence has accompanied the reduction in seclusion.

"When seclusion increased, the rate of acts of violence also increased," according to DYS spokeswoman Kim Jump. "We're proud of the decreased seclusion rate because it means that youth are spending more time in treatment and programming."

Since it is so successful, one wonders why it took the intervention of the federal government to force Ohio to reduce the use of seclusion in the DYS.

Sources: Columbus Dispatch, Correctional Institution Inspection Committee report dated February 11, 2015

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