Florida teens file federal lawsuit against Department of Juvenile Justice over use of solitary confinement

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Two 13-year-olds and a 16-year-old sued the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice on Thursday, alleging their health and well-being were put in danger when the state placed them in solitary confinement.

Lawyers representing the three minors in the federal lawsuit are seeking to overturn an agency policy that they contend allows juveniles to be placed in isolation with “no meaningful social interaction, environmental stimulation, outdoor recreation, schooling or property.”

The case, filed in U.S. district court in Tallahassee as a class action, names the Department of Juvenile Justice and Secretary Simone Marstiller as defendants. It argues that putting minors in isolation violates the U.S. Constitution and discriminates against children with disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The 16-year-old suing the state is a pregnant girl from Jacksonville.

The lawsuit contends the state was aware of her pregnancy and that putting her in isolation made her “more vulnerable to physical and mental harm such as a miscarriage, birth complications or aggravated pregnancy-related symptoms caused by the trauma of solitary confinement.” The other plaintiffs are a 13-year-old boy from Orange City and a 13-year-old girl from Jacksonville.

“Without judicial intervention, these children will continue to suffer from the physical and psychological harm from solitary confinement,” said the lawsuit, filed by attorneys from Florida Legal Services, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Florida Justice Institute.

Another lawsuit filed this year contends the Florida Department of Corrections “widely overuses” solitary confinement and places inmates with mental illnesses in isolation for extended periods of time. That suit also seeks to put an end to the practice.

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