After their child has been arrested, many parents in New Jersey receive a notice saying that the help of an attorney isn’t necessary for an upcoming meeting with a Juvenile Hearing Officer. While an attorney isn’t required at such a hearing, parents should still keep in mind that the quality of their child’s future is at stake, and a juvenile offense can stay on a child’s record even after the age of 18.

A recently settled lawsuit underscores some of the risks a juvenile may face if incarcerated for an offense in New Jersey. According to the lawsuit, two boys, who were 15 and 16 years old in 2009, were placed in solitary confinement for periods of time that violated standards set by the Department of Justice.

A news report indicates that the 15-year-old was held intermittently for 50 days in solitary confinement, and the 16-year-old was kept intermittently in solitude for 178 days. The lawsuit claimed that standards set by the Department of Justice were violated because each boy was kept alone in a cell for more than a day at a time.

Previously, the 16-year-old had been diagnosed with a number of emotional disorders, and the lawsuit claimed that while he was incarcerated, he experienced hallucinations, attempted suicide and harmed himself in other ways. The complaint also alleged that the mental health of both boys worsened as a result of being held in solitary confinement for extended periods of time.

Employees of the Juvenile Justice Commission and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey were named in the lawsuit, and those two entities have agreed to split a payment of $400,000 to settle the lawsuit. The elder boy is expected to receive $120,000, but the boy who was 15 at the time of his incarceration has since passed away. His estate is expected to receive $20,000.

The case is a sad reminder of the importance of protecting the rights and well-being of minors who have been accused of a crime.

Source: The Star-Ledger, “N.J. to pay half of $400K settlement over solitary confinement of juveniles,” Jeff Goldman, Dec. 10, 2013