OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s agency-request legislation to ban solitary confinement as a punitive practice for juveniles passed the Washington State Legislature today, in a strong bipartisan vote of 36-13.
There is a growing national consensus that placing juveniles in solitary confinement is inhumane and does not improve behavior. Studies have shown solitary confinement to be both emotionally and psychologically damaging for youth, as well as ineffective at improving behavior. Solitary confinement exacerbates stress and other mental health conditions, particularly for youth.
Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, sponsored the bill. Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way, sponsored the companion bill in the Senate.
“Evidence tells us that youth solitary confinement does not work, causes trauma, and actually make it harder to rehabilitate youth,” said Ferguson “I remain deeply appreciative of the diverse, bipartisan coalition that came together to support this common sense criminal justice reform.”
“Solitary confinement has no place in juvenile facilities,” Rep. Peterson said. “It traumatizes youth and hurts their ability to learn and grow into adults who are effectively re-integrated into society. I’m proud to have helped pass this bill.”
“Solitary confinement is emotionally and psychologically damaging to youth, who are less developed and more vulnerable,” Sen. Wilson said. A study of suicides in juvenile facilities revealed half of all suicides occurred while in isolation and 62 percent had a history of solitary confinement. This bill is a critical and necessary next step in our work to reform and improve the system working with juveniles.”
Ferguson’s legislation places restrictions on the use of room confinement and isolation in youth detention facilities, but it does not prohibit those tools. The legislation requires that the use of isolation and room confinement be limited to a period of no more than four hours, and only for the purpose of safety. Moreover, the bill requires institutions to document any use of isolation or room confinement.
Fergusons’ legislation applies to both county and state facilities.
Ferguson’s legislation is supported by several organizations, including the Washington Department of Children, Youth & Families, the American Civil Liberties Union, TeamChild, Columbia Legal Services and King County. Ten states, including California and Texas have passed similar laws.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org