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 October over the county’s solitary-confinement practices. With the help of the Seattle-based Columbia Legal Services firm, the four 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. 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 requires a mental-health professional and a parent or legal guardian to be notified within eight hours whenever juveniles enter solitary confinement.

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 August 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 applied only to juveniles who had been charged as adults by prosecutors for particularly violent offenses, and were therefore held in adult detention facilities. The county has since moved all 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.

Update (Aug. 20): This post has been updated to include comment from King County Executive Dow Constantine’s staff on the settlement.

More in News & Comment

Business alliance serves women of African diaspora in King County

Nourah Yonous launched the African Women Business Alliance in 2017 to find ways to lift women up.

Fire along Twisp River Road in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest in 2018. Courtesy photo
Wildfire response: State unveils funding legislation proposal

Last year, Department of Natural Resources responded to record number of wildfires.

A new report, complete with recommendations to the Legislature, has been released by a statewide task force that was formed to address a lack of child care in Washington. File photo
Report outlines lack of child care in Washington

In King County, supply doesn’t meet demand for child care.

You’ve been hacked! Data breaches in Washington on the rise

But fewer people had personal information compromised from cyberattacks in 2019 compared to 2018.

Demonstrators from La Resistencia protest Amazon’s involvement with ICE. Photo courtesy of La Resistencia
How will the U.S. respond to climate refugees?

Business as usual has been harder borders, are there other ways to address climate migration?

Stolen rescue dog, lost peacock reunited with owners

Federal Way police share emotional reunions after tracking down stolen dog in abandoned home, finding lost peacock.

A young girl holds up a ‘Don’t Pollute I Live Here’ sign in the crowd during the Youth Climate Strike at Cal Anderson Park on Friday, March 15, 2019 in Seattle, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
King County builds blueprint for health, climate change

The plan will inform how the Board of Health addresses climate change-related health issues.

File photo of a pothole
King County approves roads, bridges funding

The capital projects funding is significantly less than previous years.

Safe drug consumption sites have been recommended by the King County Heroin and Opioid Task Force. Pictured is a safe consumption site in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Photo supplied by ARCHES in Lethbridge
What’s been happening with safe injection sites?

There hasn’t been much coverage this year compared to the last couple years.

Most Read