SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. led a new law to end youth solitary confinement – leading to better outcomes for children who are detained.

“Sadly, across the nation, young people are being held in solitary confinement for unreasonably long periods of time, sometimes spending 22 hours or more alone each day,” said Sims (D-Chicago). “That is inhumane and can cause long-term grave psychological, physical and developmental harm.”

Sims’ measure prohibits the use of solitary confinement on young detainees in detention centers for any purpose other than preventing immediate physical harm.

Young people in solitary confinement are isolated both physically and socially, often for days, weeks, or even months on end. Sometimes there is a window allowing natural light to enter or a view of the world outside cell walls. Sometimes it is possible to communicate by yelling to other inmates, with voices distorted, reverberating against concrete and metal. Occasionally, they get a book or bible, and if they are lucky, study materials. But inside this cramped space, few contours distinguish one hour, one day, week, or one month, from the next.

“For children, who are still developing and more vulnerable to irreparable harm, risks are magnified – particularly those with disabilities or histories of trauma and abuse,” said Sims. “Children should not be deprived of the services, programming, and other tools they need for healthy growth, education, and development. We should be helping children grow into productive and healthy adults, not harming them, this is particularly true when they have come into the criminal legal system. If we are going to have true safety and justice, we must invest in a criminal legal system that creates pathways to success not one that tears down our young people and creates a cycle of recidivism.”

Senate Bill 3140 was signed into law Friday.