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AG Ferguson looks to end solitary confinement for juveniles

King County's juvenile detention and youth services center. (King County)

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is pushing forward on a bill that would ban excessive solitary confinement for juveniles.

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“Doing away with practices that evidence shows do not work, and actually make it harder to rehabilitate youth, is common sense,” Ferguson said in a news release.

Sponsored by Democratic House Rep. Strom Peterson, the bill would limit the ability of youth detention facilities to use any sort of isolated confinement as a means of punishment for long stretches of time. That means that it can only be used for up to four hours, “and only for the purpose of safety.”

It also requires stringent documentation of any such punishment to ensure limits are not exceeded.

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Ferguson points to a “growing national consensus” that solitary confinement is not only “inhumane,” but does little to improve behavior among juvenile offenders.

“Studies have shown solitary confinement to be both emotionally and psychologically damaging for youth,” his office stated, claiming it “exacerbates stress and other mental health conditions.”

The proposal was passed out of the state House Thursday, and will move to the Senate.

This comes in the midst of a series of other measures moving through the Legislature changing how the state’s criminal justice system works, the first large scale effort at comprehensive reform since the system was set up almost 40 years ago.

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