A look inside the King County Juvenile Detention Center. File photo

A look inside the King County Juvenile Detention Center. File photo

King County is still using solitary confinement on juveniles

Report on solitary confinement shows the county is not honoring its agreement.

A report from an independent monitor was released earlier this week and showed that King County is still using solitary confinement as a punishment for juveniles despite the King County Council passing a resolution effectively banning it more than a year ago.

The council voted unanimously in December 2017 to ban the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in King County Jail and the Maleng Regional Justice Center. However, a recent report conducted by independent monitor Stephanie Vetter to King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office shows that between July and November 2018, the county illegally used solitary confinement 15 times on eight juvenile inmates.

On top of this, the county’s correction system also used program modification — systems where the juveniles locked up in county correctional facilities are denied free time — nearly 350 times. A public hearing was held March 26 at a packed county Law and Justice Committee meeting where King County Council members had strong words for corrections staff.

“We’ve got to make faster and better progress,” said council member Rod Dembowski. “If you needed more time, you should have come back to this council and said this is harder than we thought.”

Because the county was still using solitary confinement, committee chair Larry Gossett did not release $100,000 in appropriations. Juvenile Division director Pam Jones said they were working toward reform, but it also required retraining staff.

“We considered some things when we talked about solitary confinement. We said we need to be collaborative with the guild, we need to make sure staff were trained,” Jones said.

The independent monitor raised concerns that the average length of stay in juvenile facilities has been increasing from 12 days to more than 300 days, said Clif Curry, the county’s legal analyst. On top of this, youth who turn 18 and are transferred to different prisons do not receive adequate transition services, according to the report.

The county’s agreement to ban solitary confinement for juveniles in county jails stems from a lawsuit filed by four youth alleging they spent days in solitary confinement and were illegally denied educational services. The most recent report was the second of two, with the first being released late last year.

At a Dec. 3 county council meeting, the council approved strict guidelines stating county facilities cannot use solitary confinement unless it is “necessary to prevent significant physical harm to the juvenile detained or to others when less restrictive alternatives would be ineffective.” Juveniles must be given access to lawyers, counselors, educators and social service providers, according to the guidelines.

Vetter’s previous report documented 45 incidents of disciplinary action taken against juveniles during the report’s duration. It also found that youth of color seemed to receive a higher proportion of disciplinary measures. During the previous review period, the report found that African-American youth made up 47 percent of the detention population, but represented 62 percent of those disciplined.

In the most recent report, two African-American juveniles were put in solitary confinement five times; five white juveniles were put in solitary confinement nine times; and one Asian or Pacific Islander was put in solitary once. However, the report noted that Hispanic juveniles may have been counted as white under the county’s reporting mechanism.

For program modifications, the most recent report noted that 58 African-American juveniles were sanctioned 199 times,; 25 Hispanic juveniles were placed under program modification 74 times; and 17 white juveniles were sanctioned 61 times.


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 Northwest

t
Federal Way woman accused of driving high in fatal crash

Victim was age 19 and died three days after the crash.

A free CPR training and career fair will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 13 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Puget Sound Fire
Fire authorities offer free CPR training, career fair Saturday, July 13

Event open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at accesso ShoWare Center in Kent

t
Man, 26, drowns at Gene Coulon Beach in Renton

Renton Police are still investigating.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. COURTESY PHOTO
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray questions whether Biden should stay in race

‘President Biden must seriously consider the best way to preserve his incredible legacy’

t
Renton motorcyclist dies after colliding with elk, second vehicle on I-90

Woman, 46, struck by another vehicle on freeway July 6 after hitting elk

File photo
Federal Way Police shoot man during a domestic violence dispute

Non-life-threatening injuries to the man at apartment complex.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump participated in a debate June 27, 2024. (Screenshot from Google Images)
King County politicos share thoughts on presidential debate

“I can tell you who didn’t win the debate, and it was the American public.”

Fuse Washington created the tongue-in-cheek ‘Save Our Yachts’ website to poke fun at those pushing a ballot measure to repeal the capital gains tax that is paid by the state’s super wealthy. (Screenshot)
Attack websites seep into WA election battles

Such undertakings tend to change few minds and can incite a backlash, especially in communities where negative campaigning is not the norm.

COURTESY PHOTO
Trash and various debris at a Green River homeless encampment in unincorporated King County along 94th Place South between Kent and Auburn.
Landmark Supreme Court decision criminalizes homelessness

In King County, there are about 16,385 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

Courtesy Photo, Renton Police
New technology lets Renton Police track suspects in real time

Renton police say Gladiator Forensics Services allows multiple divisions to more effectively do their jobs.

Traffic backs up on Interstate 5 northbound June 26 in Federal Way after a fatal stabbing in a vehicle. COURTESY PHOTO, Washington State Department of Transportation
Suspect arrested in I-5 fatal stabbing in Federal Way

19-year-old Patriot Ryan Lemay died from a stab wound to the neck in June 26 incident