Ending Isolation in Youth Facilities

The Ending Isolation in Youth Facilities Certificate Program is designed to support leaders in ending the use of isolation in their jurisdictions and promote positive outcomes for youth, staff, and communities.

Participants will receive instruction from national experts on cutting edge ideas, policies, and practices. Upon completion of the program, participants will receive an Executive Certificate from Georgetown University, membership into CJJR’s Fellows Network, and ongoing support from the staff in the implementation of their Capstone Project.

Program Background

Each year, thousands of young people are subjected to isolation in juvenile and adult facilities across the country. Isolation can have long-lasting and devastating effects on youth, including trauma, psychosis, depression, anxiety, and increased risk of suicide and self-harm. Many youth in isolation do not receive appropriate education, mental health services, or drug treatment. Because adolescents are still developing, isolation can lead to permanent harm to their physical, psychological, and social growth and well-being. Despite a growing national recognition of isolation’s profoundly negative consequences, many facility-based staff, leaders and partners in the justice system are unfamiliar with effective alternatives to isolation or how to implement those alternatives sustainably over the long term.

CJJR has partnered with the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, the Justice Policy Institute, the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators, and Arnold Ventures to provide this professional development opportunity. This program builds on the Stop Solitary for Kids campaign to end isolation of youth on the national level.


This curriculum lays the groundwork for teams to create safe and supportive conditions in their facilities, use data to track progress, and enhance buy-in from frontline staff and other essential stakeholders. The Certificate Program incorporates case scenarios and other interactive learning activities, giving participants the opportunity to apply the material they have learned. It also promotes cross-team engagement, encouraging jurisdictions to share their on-the-ground experiences, challenges, and strategies.

The curriculum includes the following modules:

This introduction frames the dangers of isolation, including its impact on the physical and psychological well-being of youth and staff and on safety within a facility. Presenters will engage participants in a candid discussion about the challenges—and opportunities—in eliminating the use of isolation. The session also addresses the roles that race and other factors, such as ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation, play in the decision to use isolation.

“If not this, then what?” is one of the most common questions posed by staff who are facing the prospect of ending a practice they have historically relied upon in their daily efforts. In this module, participants will examine case studies of reduction and elimination of solitary in youth facilities, discussing alternative strategies to address the most challenging incidents faced by youth and staff. Specific topics include:

  • Setting the Stage for Ending Isolation
  • A Deeper Look at Behavior Management
  • The Role of Clinicians in Ending Isolation
  • Responding to Incidents of Violence

This module explores various dimensions that contribute to a culture of safety and wellbeing within the facility and help to prevent undesired incidents from occurring in the first place. The session will cover the importance of a rigorous daily schedule (featuring education, programming, recreation, and treatment) that engages and supports youth; the need for strong family and youth engagement and partnership; the role of the physical environment; and de-escalation strategies in promoting a safe and positive facility culture.

This session examines the role of data collection in ending the use of isolation, addressing:

  • How to use data to analyze and monitor who gets put into solitary and why, how long youth spend in solitary, how frequently solitary is used in the facility, and what alternatives to solitary currently exist
  • How to measure and address disparate rates of isolation faced by youth of color, youth with disabilities, and LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth
  • How to track the impact of new facility-based approaches as part of the move away from solitary

Culture change is an essential component to ending the use of isolation in youth facilities. This session addresses the following elements:

  • Beginning with the compass—articulating and communicating the “why” both internally and externally
  • Policy development—including staff in the process to increase buy-in
  • Providing opportunities for staff to express their concerns about new policies
  • Giving staff the tools and support to embrace a new approach
  • Navigating staff resistance
  • Identifying and empowering staff and stakeholder champions
  • Navigating the timeline of transitioning away from isolation

This panel discussion will feature young people who have been impacted by the use of isolation. Panelists will share their experiences and discuss how to best support youth both within facilities and upon reentry to the community.


Core program instructors may include:

  • Kelly Dedel, Ph.D., Director, One in 37 Research, Inc.
  • Mike Dempsey, Executive Director, Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators
  • Jenny Lutz, J.D., Staff Attorney, Center for Children’s Law and Policy
  • Mark Soler, J.D., Executive Director, Center for Children’s Law and Policy
  • Michael Umpierre, J.D., Director, Center for Juvenile Justice Reform

Application Guidelines

A maximum of five multi-disciplinary teams will be invited for participation in the program. Each team should be composed of eight to ten members who are positioned to enact practice and policy change within their jurisdiction and will be most heavily involved in the implementation of the Capstone Project to eliminate the use of isolation.

It is strongly recommended that team members include the following seven individuals from the agency, facility, and community levels:

This is a representative of the juvenile justice agency that operates or contracts with facilities in the jurisdiction. This includes:

  • Juvenile justice agency leadership (e.g., director, deputy director responsible for facility operations)

This is a representative from the designated facility that will eliminate solitary. This includes:

  • Facility leadership (e.g., superintendent)
  • Facility-based unit supervisor
  • Facility-based line-level custody staff
  • Facility-based behavioral health leader or staff
  • Facility-based educator

This is a representative from the community who provides support to youth in custody and/or upon community reentry. This includes:

  • Community-based provider; youth/family advocate; credible messenger or mentor

Other team members may include stakeholders and decision-makers in the juvenile justice system who will support and impact the elimination of the use of isolation in the jurisdiction, including:

  • Judges
  • Prosecutors
  • Public defenders
  • Data/research directors or staff
  • Training directors
  • Medical staff

The strongest applicants will have a broad-based commitment to eliminating the use of isolation in their facilities. In this regard, teams should be composed of key system practitioners and policymakers who have shown a capacity to implement reforms, reduce youth incarceration, improve conditions of confinement, and collect and analyze data. Selected teams should also demonstrate an understanding of reform challenges that have arisen to date and a commitment to overcoming those challenges. The best applicants will have a holistic view of how to support youth within their facilities in true partnership with youth, families, and communities.

Tuition and Costs

During the most recent offering of the Ending Isolation in Youth Facilities Certificate Program, Arnold Ventures generously covered the costs of the Certificate Program tuition, follow-­up Technical Assistance, and Promising Practice Site Visits. Travel to Washington, D.C., including airfare, hotel, and incidental expenses, was the responsibility of the participating jurisdictions; however, breakfast, lunch, and snacks were provided throughout the program.