ACLU calls on U.S. attorney general to ban solitary confinement for teen prisoners

The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the U.S. attorney general to end the practice of holding juveniles in solitary confinement in federal prisons.

The group released a minute-long video, called “Hard to Watch, Impossible to Ignore,” to promote its effort to collect 50,000 signatures that will be sent to Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Being locked in a tiny room with almost no human contact has damaging psychological effects even for shorter lengths of time -- that's why it's so shocking that this practice is used on kids,” the group said in a statement.

The group said offenders as young as 13 years old are held in solitary confinement with almost no human contact for days or months at a time.

“Solitary can amount to torture, and the consequences can be devastating for children because they’re still developing,” the ACLU said in a statement.

The ACLU has been working with 40 other groups to pressure Holder to ban solitary confinement for juveniles locked up in federal custody.

The group hopes the federal ban would set a precedent for states.

The ACLU said it had heard from unnamed officials at the Department of Justice who signaled interest in banning the practice, but none of them have committed to such action.

Tens of thousands of prisoners remain held in solitary confinement in the U.S., the ACLU says, many of whom suffer from untreated mental illness.

Transgender or teenage prisoners are often held in solitary confinement “for their own protection,” the group says.

It's a myth that solitary confinement is only used on a small subset of prisoners deemed ‘the worst of the worst,’” the ACLU said. “Sadly, it's far more common than that.”

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