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Solitary Confinement Is on the Rise in a Chicago Juvenile Detention Center

Many states have banned or severely limited solitary confinement for juveniles because of its negative impact on youth. But Chicago's Cook County detention system has gone in the other direction.

The punitive use of solitary confinement in Chicago's Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) increased almost 25 percent from 2016 to 2017, while the average daily population dropped about 20 percent over the same period, according to the Chicago Reporter.

The largest category of punitive confinement is for "unauthorized movement," which could be as minor as stepping outside of the TV room. This is also the category that has increased the most over the last year.

Ironically, Illinois is among the states that have limited solitary confinement in its youth prisons. This means that, while a teen from Chicago can spend hours in solitary confinement while awaiting trial (and while presumed innocent), he won't face solitary if he is found guilty and sentenced to a state youth prison.

The Chicago Reporter reports that the Center for Children's Law and Policy, a public interest law and policy organization focused on juvenile justice reform, has already told the JTDC to cut back on solitary confinement twice since evaluating the facility in 2013 and 2016.

The JTDC administration set a modest goal in 2016 of reducing confinement by 2 percent over the next five years. Instead, solitary confinement increased by over 1,000 instances just one year after setting that goal.

The Center will perform another evaluation this year, but it is unclear if any new evaluations will trigger changes in the system this time around.