Contra Costa County to End Juvy Hall Solitary

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge gave preliminary approval to a class action settlement over claims Contra Costa County put juvenile hall residents in solitary confinement “for anything” – even minor infractions.
     Three youths confined to Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall sued the county in 2013, claiming they were subjected to barbaric conditions for extended periods of time and denied state-mandated education while held in conditions that mimic those of adult prisons.
     According to the complaint, the children were put in solitary for uncertain, “highly subjective” reasons and often because of behavioral problems caused by disabilities like mental illness, cognitive impairments and ADHD.
     After initially challenging the youths’ lawsuit, the county agreed to settle the case earlier this year.
     Under the settlement, the county agreed to stop using room confinement as a long-term punishment and will limit the confinement time to four-hour periods. The county must also develop individualized discipline plans for residents with persistent behavioral problems and will hire an expert to identify ways to handle youths with disabilities.
     The settlement gives the county 18 months to roll out the new practices, followed by a two-year monitoring period to measure the county’s compliance.
     U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James found the settlement fair and reasonable in a 28-page preliminary order granting preliminary approval of the settlement and settlement class.
     “The court raised a handful of issues with the parties at the hearing, and having heard the parties’ responses and in light of their recent stipulations, the court is satisfied there are no obvious deficiencies in the parties’ agreements,” James wrote.
     “Plaintiffs are pleased that the court has taken the first step in ensuring that youth detained in Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall will have better access to educational services and won’t be kept in solitary confinement,” plaintiffs’ attorney Zoe Chernicoff said. “We’re pleased that the parties have cooperated to reach such a positive result for the children who are affected.”
     Contra Costa County attorney D. Cameron Baker could not immediately be reached for comment.

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