The Maleng Regional Justice Center is located at 401 4th Ave. N. in Kent. File photo

The Maleng Regional Justice Center is located at 401 4th Ave. N. in Kent. File photo

King County bans solitary confinement of juveniles

Policy shift comes as part of a settlement in response to a 2017 lawsuit

King County has agreed to ban solitary confinement of juveniles in county jails as well as pay four teens $215,000 to settle a lawsuit they filed last year over the county’s solitary confinement practices.

In Oct. 2017, with the help of the Seattle-based Columbia Legal Services firm, four teens filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that they spent days in solitary confinement and were illegally denied educational services while in custody at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. The suit also called for the county to eliminate solitary confinement for juveniles entirely.

Now, under the settlement, King County will eliminate the use of solitary confinement except in limited circumstances, and then for only short durations of time. The specifics of these exceptions have yet to be outlined, however, and will be negotiated between the county and Columbia Legal Services, according to Charlie McAteer, a spokesperson for the law firm. As the settlement is written, solitary confinement will be allowed when it is “necessary to prevent imminent and significant physical harm to the juvenile detained or to others and less restrictive alternatives were unsuccessful.”

The county has also agreed to work with a monitor who will provide regular reports to Columbia Legal Services and county officials on their solitary confinement practices. They’ve also promised to work with Columbia Legal Services to compose a new solitary confinement policy that includes a requirement that when juveniles enter solitary confinement, a mental health professional and a parent or legal guardian are notified within eight hours.

In addition to the $215,000 that the plaintiffs will evenly split among themselves, they will also receive $25,000 for legal fees.

“King County’s practice of isolating children is out of step with community values, the science, and generally accepted correctional standards because it is harmful to children and counterproductive,” said Nick Straley, an attorney with Columbia Legal Services in a Aug. 20 news release. “It’s past time to take a big step forward to eliminate the inhumane practice of isolation that harms already vulnerable children and violates their constitutional rights.”

The settlement also resolves a portion of the lawsuit that alleged that the county and the Kent School District failed to provide juveniles with adequate educational services while incarcerated. The Kent School District has also agreed to reform its policies for educating youth held at the Regional Justice Center and will pay the four plaintiffs $25,000.

The lawsuit only applied to juveniles who were charged as adults by prosecutors for particularly violent offenses, and were therefore held in adult detention facilities. The county has since moved all of its youths charged as adults to the existing youth detention center in Central Seattle. Prior to the 2017 lawsuit, King County Executive Dow Constantine directed the county to pursue a goal of zero youth detention.

In a statement, Constantine spokesperson Alex Fryer said that their office welcomes the presiding judge’s acceptance of their settlement agreement.




Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Kent Police crack down on street racing as it spreads across city, region

Parking lots at Dick’s Drive-In, LA Fitness become gathering spots

Sound Transit delays construction of Kent parking garage for train commuters

Project placed on pause because of declining revenues due to COVID-19

LaPorte to retire as city of Kent Public Works director

11 years as head of department; 31 years with city

Puget Sound Fire call report

Type, number of incidents

Former Kent pro soccer team owner pleads guilty to rape

Dion Earl, 48, was charged last year in Kirkland case

SR 410 in Enumclaw to remain closed for several weeks

Rocks and wires down on SR 410 making it unsafe for travel

Stock photo
Renton woman pleads guilty to purchasing firearms for ‘violent street gangs’

Woman provided the guns to her son, who modified them, sold them to gang members

Most Read