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Onondaga County lawmakers pursue long-term end to solitary confinement for juveniles

Ellen Abbott

Onondaga County lawmakers are considering legislation that would ensure that juveniles are not thrown in solitary confinement in any of the county’s criminal justice facilities in the future.

This move follows the settlement of a lawsuit between the county and the New Yorkers Civil Liberties Union earlier this year that ends the routine practice of solitary confinement for juveniles in county facilities. Democrat Legislator Chris Ryan notes that the agreement only runs through 2019, which is why he’s proposing a resolution that would prohibit the county from sliding back into that practice.

"My point is to adopt a sound policy that goes forward beyond that that ends the practice in all county facilities moving forward, as a policy for the county," Ryan said. 

The lawsuit had been brought on behalf of all juveniles held in solitary at the county’s justice center. The agreement means 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be housed in what is called the “box," and be deprived of education and counseling. Under the agreement, children can only be confined to their cells for as little time as necessary if there is an imminent safety threat.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the resolution at their September meeting.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.