Today, the Justice Department sought a federal court order temporarily restraining the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) from unlawfully secluding boys with mental health needs in its juvenile correctional facilities. The requested order would require DYS to abide by safeguards in its use of seclusion until a final ruling on the claims that DYS’ seclusion practices violate the constitutional rights of boys in DYS custody. In conjunction with its request for a temporary restraining order, the department sought to expand its existing complaint regarding the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility, to include claims of unlawful seclusion at all of the DYS facilities.
The department’s request for a restraining order detailed the state’s excessive use of seclusion, including the following information:
· In the second half of 2013, the state imposed a total of almost 60,000 hours of seclusion on 229 boys with mental health needs;
· One boy spent 1,964 hours in seclusion over six months; the state gave another boy 21 straight days of seclusion;
· Ten boys at one facility spent over 10 percent of their time in custody in seclusion;
· While secluded, several boys were on suicide watch, had suicidal thoughts or hurt themselves.
“The Ohio Department of Youth Services must stop violating the rights of youth in its custody through unlawful seclusion,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The way in which Ohio uses seclusion to punish youth with mental health needs, victimizes one of the most vulnerable groups in our society.”
“Ohio’s juvenile correctional facilities must comply with the Eighth and 14th Amendments,” said U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart for the Southern District of Ohio. “We will remain vigilant in protecting the constitutional rights of all our citizens, particularly young people and those with mental illness.”
“The facts in this case reveal a serious disregard for the rights of young people with mental health needs in Ohio’s custody,” said U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach for the Northern District of Ohio. “The Ohio Department of Youth Services has a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of these young people, including providing appropriate mental health treatment, so that they can overcome challenging behaviors and return to the community to become successful adults.”
Following an investigation under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), the Justice Department issued findings in May 2007 detailing significant constitutional deficiencies regarding use of physical force, grievance investigation and processing and use of seclusion. In June 2008, the department entered into a consent decree with the state to correct these deficiencies at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility. However, the recent discovery that DYS continued to unlawfully seclude boys with mental health needs at Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility and had moved boys to other DYS facilities also using unlawful seclusion prompted the department today to seek a temporary restraining order and an order allowing it to add the remaining DYS facilities to its complaint.
This case is being litigated by attorneys from the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. Copies of both motions and additional information about the Civil Rights Division will be available on its website.