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Trend to End Youth Solitary Confinement Alive in WA Legislature

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Solitary confinement can have detrimental effects on the developing brains of young people, studies have found. (karenfoleyphoto/Adobe Stock)
Solitary confinement can have detrimental effects on the developing brains of young people, studies have found. (karenfoleyphoto/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA - Producer, Contact
January 27, 2020

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A bill to end solitary confinement for young people in Washington state jails and detention facilities is making its way through the State Legislature.

The practice has come under increased scrutiny across the country, including from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The group says that it can lead to depression, anxiety and even psychosis.

The legislation comes at the request of the attorney general, and its prime sponsor in the House is Rep. Strom Peterson.

"For decades, it was thought that this would be a good way to calm somebody down or get somebody to change their behavior -- when in fact, that kind of isolation creates such anxiety and such psychological trauma that they're often more violent or more reactive when they come out, instead of less," Peterson points out.

Bans or limits on youth solitary confinement have passed in red and blue states across the country, including California and Texas.

Last week, the Human Services and Early Learning Committee recommended that the House pass the bill.

Peterson says there's broad support for the legislation, including from people in law enforcement.

"People want to make sure that our young people are taken care of so, when they reenter society, that they're reentering as healthy and productive human beings," he states. "And that we're also, in the short term, protecting the staff that are working at these juvenile facilities."

Peterson says he would also like to address solitary confinement of adults in prison.

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