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KARE 11 Investigates: Juvenile lockups routinely order kids into solitary confinement

Controversial practice puts kids' mental health and the public’s safety at risk, experts say. One teen who got out: "I didn’t know right from wrong."

Brandon Stahl (KARE11), Lauren Leamanczyk, Steve Eckert

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Published: 3:44 PM CST February 23, 2023
Updated: 10:26 PM CST February 23, 2023

Emitt Long grew up choked, burned, and beaten. He suffered from depression and was harming himself as early as age 6.  

He began acting out. As he grew into a teenager, he committed felony crimes that put him into Minnesota’s juvenile justice system, which is supposed to help rehabilitate kids like Emitt while protecting the public.

His crimes were so serious that at age 14, he was sent to the Red Wing juvenile prison. There, records show he would be repeatedly placed into what’s known as “Disciplinary Room Time” – where kids are locked alone in their cells as punishment.

“In Minnesota, we refer to solitary confinement as Disciplinary Room Time, or DRT,” a Department of Corrections official testified to the state legislature in 2021.

Emitt is one of thousands of kids who have been ordered into solitary confinement in Minnesota’s juvenile lockups, a KARE 11 Investigation has found, a practice that experts say harms youth and puts the public’s safety at risk.

“You sit in that cell for 22 hours a day and you come out for your little break,” Emitt, told KARE 11 in an interview.

Credit: KARE 11
Emitt Long was first put into solitary confinement at age 14.

He said he banged his head against the walls, pulled the dreadlocks from his hair, and begged the guards to let him out.

“They just shrugged it off and kept walking,” he said. “They treat you like a dog.”

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