2 youth detention centers no longer receiving inmates as populations overflow

Echo Glen Children's Center in Snoqualmie.

The Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) announced over the weekend it has suspended taking in new inmates at two youth detention centers — Echo Glen Children’s Center in Snoqualmie and the Green Hill School in Chehalis — due to overflowing populations.

The announcement came Saturday, but the facilities said it stopped receiving inmates last Friday, the day after the Fourth of July holiday.

Green Hill School’s population went from 150 in January 2023 to 240 in June 2024, according to DCYF, 30% above their capacity.

“When too many young people are concentrated in small spaces it can escalate behaviors and limit the ability for therapeutic rehabilitation,” DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter said in a prepared statement. “This was not sustainable. Our facilities must be safe, therapeutic and functional.”

Offenders won’t be released due to overcrowding

This decision does not mean juvenile offenders will be released, according to DCYF. Minors who have been sentenced will remain in a county facility until the population at local youth detention centers reaches “safe and sustainable capacity levels.”

The average stay at Green Hill is 272 days, compared with 189 days at Echo Glen, according to The Seattle Times. Juveniles convicted of adult crimes in Washington serve their sentences in DCYF facilities until they are 21 or 25.

“More young people are getting sentenced and for longer periods, filling up capacity at JR facilities faster than expected,” DCYF Communications Administrator Nancy Gutierrez wrote.

With rising populations at these facilities, DCYF contracted extra security as additional staff.

There is no definitive timeline for how long this freeze will last, but DCYF believes it could take months before they resume accepting new inmates.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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