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North Carolina Sheriff Decides to End Solitary Confinement for Juveniles, Leading to Reexamination of Human Rights Violations In Criminal System


In a move that shocked the North Carolina criminal justice community, in January, Mecklenburg County sheriff McFadden announced that the county jail would no longer permit placing 16- and 17-year-olds in solitary confinement because it “strip[s] teens of their dignity” and interferes with the relationships between detention officers and the inmates. According to reports, the inmates who were being held in isolation are now let out of their cells for several hours per day and provided with other privileges, such as being able to attend classes.

The use of solitary confinement was already barred for youth in federal custody, as well as those in the state prison system, three years ago. Unfortunately, that still leaves counties such as Franklin, Granville, Vance, and Warren relying on the practice.

The Widespread, Long-Term Use of Solitary Confinement in the U.S.

Many have long considered the use of solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of basic human rights. The practice typically involves holding prisoners in a cell for 23 hours or more per day, depriving them of essentially all stimulation and imposing extreme social isolation on them. Prisoners will frequently remain there for years and, in some cases, decades, receiving no outdoor exercise and deprived of any personal possessions, such as books; where any visits other than with attorneys are conducted through video screens. While originally intended to be used as a short-term punishment for misconduct, in recent years, more and more prisons rely on solitary confinement as a long-term management strategy. According to some estimates, a minimum of approximately 20,000 people are currently held in solitary confinement in the U.S. at any given time.

Psychological & Physical Harm

There is broad consensus that solitary confinement is extremely harmful, causing a number of prisoners to become violently insane and/or commit suicide. Other recorded reactions have included:

  • Anxiety and nervousness;
  • Appetite and weight loss;
  • Claustrophobia;
  • Dizziness;
  • Extreme fear;
  • Hallucinations and distortions;
  • Headaches;
  • Hypersensitivity to stimuli;
  • Insomnia;
  • Lack of impulse control;
  • Lower levels of brain function;
  • Nightmares;
  • Rage and irrational anger;
  • Self-mutilation;
  • Severe, chronic depression; and
  • Talking to oneself.

Contact Our North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys to Find Out More

The stakes are high when it comes to going to prison in North Carolina, whether you are charged as a juvenile or adult. And when you are charged and convicted also matters, resulting in a number of inequities for prisoners charged before certain laws are passed or decisions are made as to severity.

Don’t take risks when it comes to the rest of your life—contact our North Carolina criminal attorneys today at Hauter Law Firm, PC to find out how we can provide you with the advice and assistance that you need so that you are protected in the criminal justice system before you could be convicted.



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