Our Stories

Groundbreaking Settlement Bans Solitary Confinement and Ends Failure to Educate Youth With Disabilities

Can't watch this video? Click here to watch it on Public Counsel's YouTube channel.

Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall locks young people with disabilities in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day and deprives them of education, according to a federal class action lawsuit filed today by Public Counsel, Disability Rights Advocates, and Paul Hastings LLP. 

In a video, parents of young people currently held at Juvenile Hall say that Contra Costa County is denying them education and contributing to their mental illness.

"Juvenile Hall has taken a kid who's made a mistake and completely tried to take all of his hopes and dreams," said "Cici," the mother of W.B., who was held in solitary confinement for three weeks.

W.B. suffered a mental breakdown after solitary confinement and was found smearing feces on the wall. He was hospitalized for three weeks and remains in Juvenile Hall.

Q.G. has been in Juvenile Hall for nearly three years, falling farther behind in school. In full-time special education since first grade, he currently receives no mental health services and only cursory special education services for his learning and visual problems.

"It's hard with me going to see your child every week, and he's like 'Mommy, why am I still here? Why am I not getting those services?' " said his mother "Barbara." "Because I don't have an answer."

"Even though by law juvenile halls in California exist solely for the purpose of rehabilitation not punishment, children with disabilities at the Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall are being subjected to egregious and inhumane maximum security-like prison conditions," said Public Counsel Education Rights Director Laura Faer, co-counsel on case. "They are routinely locked for days and weeks at a time in cells that have barely enough room for a bed and only a narrow window the width of a hand."

"Rehabilitation means going to school, getting help for your mental health or learning disability," she said. "It means coming out better prepared for life than when you went in. Contra Costa County is failing its legal mission to rehabilitate young people."

California law protects the privacy of young people and their families in the juvenile justice system, and we have withheld their faces and names.


Legal Documents, including notice of class action settlement and Settlement Agreements

  • Class Notice
  • County Settlement Agreement (PDF)
  • Contra Costa County Office of Education (COE) Settlement Agreement (PDF)
  • The United States District Court for the Northern District of California has preliminarily approved the class action settlements reached in the G.F. v. Contra Costa County, N.D. Cal. Case No. C-13-03667 MEJ, filed in 2013, a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of juveniles with disabilities who are detained, or will be detained in the future, at the John A. Davis Juvenile Hall, located in Martinez, California. 


    Media Coverage

  • Los Angeles Times, “Contra Costa County to end solitary confinement for juveniles,” by Lee Romney, May 19, 2015
  • San Francisco Chronicle, “Contra Costa ending solitary confinement at juvenile hall,” by Henry K. Lee, May 19, 2015
  • East Bay Express, “Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall to End Use of Solitary Confinement,” by Sam Levin, May 19, 2015
  • Contra Costa Times, “Contra Costa agencies agree to settle lawsuits with disability rights organizations,” by Theresa Harrington & Matthias Gafni, May 19, 2015
  • Center for Public Integrity, "Suit Alleges Mistreatment of California Minors With Mental Health Problems," by Susan Ferriss, Aug. 9, 2013 (via Huffington Post)
  • Contra Costa Times, "Lawsuit claims Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall locks youth with disabilities in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day," by David DeBolt and Malaika Fraley, Aug. 8, 2013 
  • San Francisco Chronicle, "Suit challenges solitary for teen offenders," by Henry K. Lee, Aug. 8, 2013
  • EdSource, "Lawsuit: Disabled teens kept in solitary confinement, denied educational services," by Susan Frey, Aug. 8, 2013
  • Los Angeles Times, "Bay Area juvenile hall mistreats youths with disabilities, suit says," by Lee Romney, Aug. 8, 2013 (print)
  • Los Angeles Times, "Contra Costa County puts special-ed juveniles in solitary, suit says," by Lee Romney, Aug. 8, 2013 (online)