Perry Thurston bill seeks to protect minors from solitary confinement

PRISON STOCK PHOTO (11)
The bill sets up strict protections for minor inmates.

Broward Sen. Perry Thurston filed a bill Tuesday to protect imprisoned minors from solitary confinement.

The bill, Youth in Solitary Confinement (SB 570), would protect minors being held in state or local correctional facilities from forced solitary confinement, except under specified conditions.

The bill allows for minors to be placed in “emergency cell confinement” if they must be removed from the general population because the individual presents immediate danger to themselves or others.

The bill outlines strict protections for the use of “emergency cell confinement” — the minor cannot be kept there for more than 24 hours, all other options have to have been exhausted and documented and a mental health clinician must certify that it is not detrimental to the youth’s mental or physical health.

A mental health professional is also required to meet with the person placed in “emergency cell confinement” within one hour of placement, and continue to meet with the minor at least once every hour after to evaluate if the individual should remain in confinement. In each documented evaluation, the clinician must include the reason for continued confinement.

If the minor has shown suicidal behavior while in confinement, the mental health clinician must implement a suicide crisis intervention plan and closely monitor the prisoner. If the suicide risk is not resolved within 24 hours, the minor must be moved to a mental health facility.

Under the bill, facility staff is also required to conduct visual checks every 15 minutes while the minor is in confinement. The bill requires the minor be allotted at least one hour outside for exercise, as well as access to the same meals, medical treatment, parental contact and legal assistance as the rest of the prisoners.

For minors who are being held under “disciplinary cell confinement,” which can be enforced if the prisoner commits a major violation, similar protections are in place by the bill; however, Thurston is looking to eliminate “disciplinary confinement” all together in a related bill filed Tuesday, SB 550.

SB 570 sets strict protections on minors in “disciplinary cell confinement.” The bill outlines that minors cannot be held for more than 72 hours, and is allotted two hours of outside activity and a daily shower. They are also allowed access to the resources listed previously, and must be monitored every 15 minutes by staff.

The bill also sets up protections for minor prisoners placed in protective custody, requiring they have access to programs normally provided at facilities, at least five hours daily outside of the cell (including two hours outside) and the same resources provided to  other inmates.

If approved and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the bill would take effect July 1.

A bill last year approved and signed into law offers restrictions on solitary confinement for pregnant women.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at kelly@floridapolitics.com.



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