I agree with President Obama on the need to reform our solitary confinement laws, especially for children. It is time to change things. I introduced Virginia Senate Bill 215 as the first step in making juvenile isolation safer and rare in Virginia. If passed, the bill would direct the Board of Corrections to develop regulations that reflect evidence-based practices in rehabilitating youth. These regulations would require that isolation be used only as a last resort, identify conditions under which isolation may be permitted and specify short time intervals for staff to check on juveniles in isolation. The intent is to ensure that our juvenile-detention facilities achieve the best possible outcomes for our youths.
Solitary confinement heightens the negative effects of mental illness and makes it more difficult for juveniles to reenter society. According to a 2015 Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice report , 53.1 percent of juveniles in Virginia correctional facilities already need mental-health treatment, and 80 percent of them will be rearrested.
These are not statistics. These are children, and we are failing them. We must show our youths that we believe in rehabilitation by limiting the use of juvenile isolation.
Barbara Favola, Arlington
The writer, a Democrat, represents Arlington and parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties
in the Virginia Senate.