A lawsuit was filed against the Contra Costa County juvenile justice staff claiming that they are in violation of federal and state anti-discrimination laws. What is so concerning about this case is that the reported staff have been placing mentally disabled youth in solitary confinement for days and months at a time.
The lawsuit was filed by the Disability Rights Advocates, Public Counsel and Paul Hastings LLP. They claim that the staff at Juvenile Hall in Martinez are making the juvenile detention facility more like a prison rather than a place that children should feel safe, as though they were at home. “Young people deserve a second chance when they get off track and end up in Juvenile Hall, and education should be at the center of rehabilitation,” said Disability Rights Advocates Managing Attorney, Mary-Lee Smith.
We’re really doing the moral equivalent of stealing children’s futures, because the research is very clear that when you lock a child away, particularly a child with a disability, in solitary confinement, that disability gets worse and they deteriorate … making it much less likely they will come back to the community and be successful.
Laura Faer, Public Counsel’s statewide education rights director
The first of the three main plaintiffs is a 14-year-old girl who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD. She was removed from the school and locked in solitary confinement for 100 days over the course of a year. A 17-year-old boy, referred to as ‘W.B.’ spent three months in solitary confinement. This confinement came after the juvenile court found him mentally incompetent due to his diagnosis of schizophrenia. His condition rapidly worsened, and eventually led to a psychotic break. The last plantiff, known as Q.G., is 17-years-old and has been receiving special education since he was in third grade. He was diagnosed as a child with behavior problems. When he entered the juvenile center he was put into general education classes and his behavior plan was no longer existant. Due to being contained in solitary confinement 30 times, he was marked “absent” from his classes. “While in solitary confinement, Q.G. is denied the opportunity to go to school and receives zero credits for the time he has missed,” the suit says.
Peggy Marshburn, the spokeswoman for the county’s education department, declined to comment. She said that the staff had just received the lawsuit this afternoon and are still reviewing it.