A nearly $1 million charitable contribution to the national campaign to end the use of solitary confinement on youth in adult and juvenile detention will enable backers to launch several new approaches to that effort.
The Stop Solitary for Kids Campaign on Wednesday announced the donation by Houston-based Arnold Ventures, a foundation created by political activist John Arnold and his wife, Laura.
The funds represent the launch of a new phase in the campaign, which is a partnership between several leading juvenile justice advocacy groups: the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, the Justice Policy Institute, the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators, and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.
The money will be used in part to give youth who have experienced solitary or room confinement at least one outlet for sharing their stories of how it affected them. It will also try to document the extent to which racial injustice plays a role in the use of solitary — which until now is rarely tracked.
Another new approach the funds will allow for is intensive professional development training and technical assistance so that workers and administrators can reduce the harmful use of isolation as a punishment.
Finally, the money will develop a new law school course based on the acclaimed six-part documentary series “Time: The Kalief Browder Story, which traces the harmful effects of solitary confinement.
The Stop Solitary for Kids Campaign, citing federal statistics, reports that thousands of kids are locked up in solitary confinement every day, and that more than 30% who’ve been in detention facilities say they’ve experienced it.
Over half of suicides in youth facilities occur while young people are held in isolation, the campaign said, adding that Black, Latino, LGBTQ and other vulnerable youth are especially prone to be isolated.
“Reducing room confinement for young people continues to be one of the most complex and challenging tasks facing correctional professionals,” said Michael Dempsey, executive director of the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators. “But it can be done, and it will increase safety for youth and staff in facilities. Best practices call for evidence-based, and trauma-responsive, approaches to hold young people accountable while helping them change their behavior.”
According to news reports, billionaire philanthropist John Arnold made barrels of profits as a star trader for notorious energy company Enron, where a colleague dubbed him the “king of natural gas.” He escaped that catastrophe with his good name, and quit to found a blockbuster hedge fund, which he no longer runs. Arnold Ventures grants money to support evidence-based solutions to problems in criminal justice, health and education, among other areas.