Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Juvenile Solitary Confinement

A federal judge Friday rejected a request by the state Department of Juvenile Justice to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the use of solitary confinement for juveniles. The Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida Legal Services and the Florida Justice Institute sued the state in September and alleged that placing juveniles in solitary confinement violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The Department of Juvenile Justice in late October filed a motion to dismiss the case. “Unfortunately, it is clear that plaintiffs’ purpose in bringing this lawsuit is not to gain relief from some violation of constitutional rights,” the motion to dismiss said. “Rather, it is to lobby this court to judicially impose a level of care that is commensurate with the position papers, opinions, and articles supplied by various advocacy groups.”

But Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued a 21-page order Friday that cleared the way for the case to continue. Walker wrote that the plaintiffs have “alleged sufficient facts” to bring the lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that the cumulative effects of various forms of deprivation subject juveniles to unreasonable risk of serious psychological and physiological harm,” Walker wrote. “Specifically, plaintiffs allege that deprivation of normal human contact, environmental stimulation, exercise, property, education and sanitation subject them to an unreasonable risk of serious psychological and physiological harm.”

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