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October 03, 2016 Practice Points

Class-Action Filed Against County Jail on Behalf of Juveniles in Solitary Confinement

By Nicole Scialabba

On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and Legal Services of Central New York filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of six 17-year olds, identified by their initials only, against the Onondaga County Justice Center. The teen-agers have been held in solitary confinement at various points during their incarceration, and the lawsuit alleges that their Constitutional rights are being violated as well as suffering from physical and mental harm.

According to the lawsuit, the six plaintiffs have spent between 30 and 115 days in isolation. Between October 2015 - August 2016, approximately 86 teens were placed in solitary confinement around 250 times at the Justice Center, according to the NYCLU.

In New York, 16- and 17- year old suspects are charged as adults, and juvenile solitary confinement has continued at county jails, though individual jails, such as Rikers Island, has banned the practice.

The lawsuit has been filed against the Onondaga County Sheriff, Eugene Conway; Chief Custody Deputy of the Onondaga County Justice Center, Esteban Gonzalez; Assistant Chief Custody Deputy, Kevin M. Brisson; and the Syracuse City School District, who provides education to incarcerated juveniles. The relief being sought is an injunction on the practice of using solitary confinement for juveniles and a declaration that it is unconstitutional. Additionally, the lawsuit is seeking reimbursement of associated costs of litigation.

Additional information can be found in a copy of the lawsuit.

Nicole Scialabba is a staff attorney for the Legal Services of Central New York in Syracuse, New York.

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