The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin and Juvenile Law Center [advocate websites] filed a class action lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against four Wisconsin state officials on Tuesday. The complaint alleges [press release] that solitary confinement and inhumane conditions are being unconstitutionally used against incarcerated youths in correctional facilities. The ACLU claims that the staff at the Lincoln HIlls School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls [official websites] use solitary confinement, mechanical restraints, and pepper spray. These facilities house approximately 200 youths 14 years old or older. The complaint asserts these uses violate the children’s rights to substantive due process and their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment [LII materials]. The ACLU is seeking a court order to force the facilities to end such practices.
The treatment of prisoners and prison reform [JURIST podcast] has been a growing concern in the US for years. In August 2015 the Department of Justice reached a settlement [JURIST report] with Los Angeles prisons on mentally ill inmate care. In May 2015 Human Rights Watch released [JURIST report] a report stating that mentally disabled prisoners experience “unnecessary, excessive, and even malicious force” at the hands of prison staff across the US. A federal court earlier that year approved [JURIST report] a settlement agreement between the Arizona Department of Corrections and the ACLU in a class action lawsuit over the health care system within Arizona prisons. Also in February 2015 the rights group Equal Justice Under Law filed suit [JURIST report] against the cities of Ferguson and Jennings, Missouri, for their practice of jailing citizens who fail to pay debts owed to the city for minor offenses and traffic tickets. The ACLU and the ACLU of Texas released a report in 2014 exposing [JURIST report] the results of a multi-year investigation into conditions at five Criminal Alien Requirement prisons in Texas.