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Proposed bill would ban solitary confinement for juveniles

This Jan. 28, 2016 photo shows a solitary confinement cell known all as "the bing," at New York's Rikers Island jail.
Bebeto Matthews
/
The Associated Press
This Jan. 28, 2016 photo shows a solitary confinement cell known all as "the bing," at New York's Rikers Island jail.

Washington is considering banning solitary confinement of young people in detention. King County already has done away with the practice.

A law being considered by the Legislature would prevent all counties from detaining people 18 and under in total isolation.

Emily Murphy works with students locked up at Echo Glen. She read a letter to lawmakers from a young man named Dennis, who recalled his 16 days in solitary confinement in Cowlitz County.

“I started to feel myself getting depressed and feeling hopeless. It was terrible. You get trapped in your own thoughts, repeating trauma over and over again,” the letter reads. “This is why confinement for juveniles is terrible, and we need to fix this problem so youth won’t have to go through what I have gone through.”

The law would ban solitary confinement for youth held in adult facilities as well as those in juvenile detention centers. Research indicates isolation is particularly harmful for juveniles and increases the risk of violence and suicide. Ten states have already banned or limited the practice.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.