A trio of teenagers is suing a Florida sheriff for locking them in solitary confinement without cause and before even being put on trial.
Filed on behalf of the teenagers by the Human Rights Defense Center on Thursday, the suit names Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and the county school district as defendants. Each of the three boys are between 16 and 17 years old, their names kept confidential in the complaint. All of them are held on felony charges and are expected to be tried as adults.
According to The Washington Post, the three were detained in solitary confinement ‘for up to seven months,’ allowed out of their 6-foot by 12-foot cells for only an hour three days per week. The boys’ recreation time was restricted to shooting hops alone on a caged basketball court.
Two of the defendants were placed in solitary entirely without cause. The county sheriff’s office didn’t want either of the teenagers talking to fellow co-defendants in the jail’s juvenile section. ‘One of those,’ writes the Post, ‘has been in solitary since December’ and the other has been in isolation for the past half-year.
A third teenager was placed in solitary for fighting and released after twenty days.
Reports from the Palm Beach Post detail the extraordinary circumstances juveniles were detained in.
On top of being punished without having yet been sentenced, the teens suffered severe mental anguish from the long stretches alone. One inmate, claims the Florida-based paper, stared at his cell wall for so long he thought he was watching a television show.
Another boy, aged 16, flooded his cell after officers cut his telephone privileges—the only social contact he was entitled to. Deputies knocked several of his teeth out in retaliation.
Several other inmates were reportedly denied potable water, too.
“I’m not your water boy,” deputies would yell, telling detainees to drink the ‘putrid discolored water from the sink attached to their toilet.’
Despite the well-known dangers of extensive stays in solitary confinement, the teenagers received ‘little to no’ mental health care. They also missed out on attaining a proper education, being forced to listen to teachers through metal doors.
Neither the sheriff nor the county school district responded to requests for comment on the litigation. However, the district did issue a statement insisting that they’ve no control over the county sheriff.
“The district has just received a copy of the lawsuit and is in the process of reviewing it at this time,” said the district. “However, it is important to note that the school district has no control over the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office policies practices regarding juveniles, including those held at the county jail or juvenile assessment center.”