The non-adult inmates of an adult prison may end up living in conditions resembling solitary confinement, he said, as a result of the sight and sound barriers that must be in place.
Leary, the Justice Department official, said a future federal ban on housing youth in adult prisons "seems like the logical next question."
Although prison officials face no direct punishment for failing to comply, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., suggested that "sometimes you can enforce it with lawsuits." Because of the 1994 Supreme Court decision in Farmer v. Brennan, he said, prison officials only need to display deliberate indifference to be liable.
"Damages could reach billions in some states," he said. Walton agreed. "You're going to see large money damages being awarded" against non-compliant prisons, he said. "They could be astronomical. ... If [a prisoner is raped] multiple times, it could be million-dollar verdicts."