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Broome County Jail Sued Over Solitary Confinement of Teens

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BROOME COUNTY, N.Y. -

Civil rights attorneys have filed a class-action civil rights lawsuit to stop putting 16-and-17-year-olds in solitary confinement at the Broome County Jail.

The suit was filed in federal court on July 25 on behalf of two 17-year-old males, both currently in solitary confinement, according to the complaint. 

Legal Services of Central New York who is representing the teens, recently settled a similar legal battle filed in 2016 against the Onondaga County Jail.

Named in the complaint - Broome County Sheriff David Harder, the Administrator and Deputy Administrator of the Broome County Correctional Facility, and the Binghamton City School District.

The complaint alleges the Broome County Sheriff's Office has "embraced" the "frequent and arbitrary" use of solitary confinement of juveniles despite an emerging consensus against the practice.

Harder defended the practice, saying over 99 percent of the over 500 Broome County Jail inmates follow the rules and those who don't are assigned to special housing or solitary confinement. 

"These are simple rules to obey and they have chosen not to."

Attorneys for the teens say juveniles are routinely put in isolation for "minor misbehavior" such as horseplay, not cleaning their cells, or speaking loudly.

Harder said one teen was arrested for armed robbery and the second for the forceful rape of a nurse at Wilson Hospital. 

Inmates in Broome's Special Housing Unit are allowed one hour of free-time but are restricted from watching television or interacting with other inmates. Harder said the cells in SHU are the same as traditional cells.

Binghamton City School District said it could not comment on litigation. 

The practice of putting juveniles in solitary confinement will be illegal in New York as of October 2018, as part of the recently approved "Raise the Age" legislation.