Best Practices

A Mother's Plea: Stop Solitary Confinement of Children by richard ross




In 2005, Vicky Gunderson’s 17-year-old son, Kirk (pictured above), committed suicide while in solitary confinement in a Wisconsin jail. Here's her story:


"As a mother, not being able to hug and comfort my son when he was alone in a concrete box was like the worst form of hell. Knowing our son Kirk ended his own life while being held in solitary confinement, after he requested to not be left alone...I cannot describe that to you. Kirk was only 17. It was two days after Christmas.

Since Kirk’s death I’ve learned that kids as young as 13 are locked up in cells away from human contact for days or months at a time all across the country. It has a devastating impact on their development, especially for those with mental health problems.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has announced a review of its use of solitary confinement. As part of that process, Attorney General Holder can ban the solitary confinement of young people in the care of the federal government. That would help set a standard for all facilities across the country, like the jail where Kirk died.

Please join me in calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to ban solitary confinement of youth held by the federal government."


Please join Vicky Gunderson and Juvenile In Justice in signing the ACLU petition to ban the solitary confinement of children in federal custody:

[audio interview] Both sides of the bars: K.X, age 19, and the superintendent by richard ross

Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility is an all-female facility in Albany, Oregon. The only one in the state. Last month Richard Ross spent 12+ hours talking, photographing, and recording the people who live and work at Oak Creek. The following post focuses on two perspectives: K.X, a young woman in insolation at Oak Creek and Mike Riggan, the superintendent of Oak Creek…[See all blog posts on Oak Creek HERE] 

Image by Richard Ross for Juvenile-in-Justice.  

[superquote]“I’m in isolation at Birch. [During the day] you can't lay down, gotta sit up. If they see you laying down they take away your mattress." [/superquote]

[superquote] I started doing a lot of stuff when my sister left: snorting powder, popping pills... I thought I was grown." [/superquote]

- K.X, age 19.


“We do have good staff here. K.X, the girl in isolation, unfortunately, chose to assault another youth and refused to stop when staff intervened. Staff was hit by her as a consequence of her refusing to stop. O.Y.A (Oregon Youth Authority) has a Matrix that was put into place a few years ago. Any decision to place a youth in isolation is in accordance with the policy and plan. This young woman, who has a history of assault and has been at Oak Creek before, can be very intimidating to other youth and is a bona fide gang member. I think this dynamic is something Casey misses, that fact that these kid’s (gang affected) loyalty is to their gang and family ties are subordinated to their gang identification. They will often put in work, usually in the form of assaults and managing it is a chore. I think what also gets lost is there is a victim(s) in these assaults and separating the youth until the dust settles and giving everyone a break is the safest bet." [superquote]"Now whether isolation is the right method, I don’t know. I do know that financially, to wrap a single program around this girl that is staff secure would be difficult." [/superquote]  

- Mike Riggan, Superintendent of Oak Creek.

[See more blog posts from Oak Creek HERE]  

"Uncles" vs. "Officers" by richard ross

Honolulu “uncles” (left) and Chicago “officers” (right)

Detention centers are defined by differing language and uniforms nation-wide. Aunties and uncles staff Honolulu’s Hale Ho'omalu Juvenile Hall (now moved to a new facility) and dress in flip-flops, shorts and casual shirts. Officers staff Cook County Juvenile Detention in Chicago, Illinois and dress in quasi-military standardized uniforms.  Cook County is the largest juvenile detention facility in the country, capable of detaining 498 kids. In 2010 the average population was 325 kids, the vast majority African-American. Many are in for violating parole or drug possession – a bad urine analysis. The average length of stay is 30 days, but ranges from 72 hours to 2 years. Hale Ho'omalu Juvenile Hall was built in the 1950s, a new facility was under construction at the time this was image was taken and was occupied in early 2010.

click here for more images of  Hale Ho'omalu Juvenile Hall 

click here for more images of Cook County Juvenile Detention Center



Two ways to deal with drama by richard ross



Two solutions for dealing with teenage drama: the first image is the new Kapolei Court Complex & Secure Detention in Kapolei, Hawaii where a juvenile acting out can be placed in an isolation "crisis" room.



Two solutions for dealing with teenage drama: the first image is the new Kapolei Court Complex & Secure Detention in Kapolei, Hawaii where a juvenile acting out can be placed in an isolation "crisis" room. The facility opened in 2010 and was built at a cost upwards of $1 million dollars. It has several crisis rooms. The second photo is from Elliot Assessment Center in Massachusetts. There, a juvenile goes to settle in a plastic $7 dollar Home Depot lawn chair set up at the end of the hallway, staying within sight and sound of their community until internal drama subsides.

click HERE to view more images from Hawaii and click HERE to view more images from Elliot Assessment