Bill banning solitary confinement as punishment for teens passes state House

Bill banning solitary confinement as punishment for teens passes state House

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Legislation designed to ban solitary confinement as punishment for juveniles passed the Washington State House of Representatives on Thursday.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, passed 76-20 and now moves to the Senate.

"We must reform our criminal justice system to reduce recidivism," Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a news release. "Doing away with practices that evidence shows do not work, and actually make it harder to rehabilitate youth, is common sense. I remain deeply appreciative of the diverse, bipartisan coalition that has come together to support this legislation."

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The bill applies to both county and state facilities and puts restrictions on the use of room confinement and isolation in youth detention facilities. It does not, however, prohibit using the tools.

The bill would allow room confinement for a period of no more than four hours only for the purpose of safety.

A similar measure was passed in 2017 by the Metropolitan King County Council. The county banned its use except for last resort cases, like preventing significant physical harm to the juvenile or others after less restrictive alternatives were unsuccessful.

However, in 2019 county leaders began demanding answers after teens continued to be held in solitary confinement despite the 2017 ban.

A report from an independent monitor stated that eight teenagers were held in solitary confinement, which they call “the hole,” 15 times between July 2018 and November of 2018.