Juvenile holding facilities would be prohibited from subjecting teens to solitary confinement, under legislation heard Thursday by the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee.
“There’s been a longtime assumption that solitary confinement can improve behavior, but studies show just the opposite,” said Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Auburn. “Rather than discouraging violence and assaults on staff and youth, solitary confinement actually increases it.”
Wilson’s Senate Bill 6112 would:
• Limit the use of isolation to only emergency conditions, with strict guidelines for time and placement;
• Require institutions to document any use of isolation or room confinement; and
• Establish a process for the creation of model policies to follow when the use of isolation, room confinement, or less restrictive alternatives is deemed appropriate.
“Solitary confinement is emotionally and psychologically damaging to youth, who are less developed and more vulnerable,” 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 legislation would align Washington with 10 states — including two of the nation’s largest, California and Texas — that have passed laws to ban or limit solitary confinement for juveniles. When the state of Ohio reduced the use of solitary confinement by more than 88 percent in 2015, institutional violence decreased by more than 20 percent.