WA juvenile detention reforms solitary confinement practices upon settling lawsuit

Jul 29, 2022, 9:41 AM

solitary confinement cell...

(John Doman / MediaNews Group / St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images)

(John Doman / MediaNews Group / St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images)

Columbia Legal Services has reached a $102,000 settlement in its lawsuit against the Department of Children, Youth and Family (DCYF) for detaining three teens in solitary confinement, depriving them of food, water, sleep, and access to bathrooms.

As a result of the lawsuit, DCYF is changing its policy on sending youth to solitary confinement, looking to minimize its uses in youth detention facilities by requiring stricter standards for its use as a punishment.

In 2018, Michael Rogers, then 17 years old, was forced into a Chehalis cell of an adult jail, isolated for months, for refusing to verbally consent to a strip search. In response to the treatment, he and two others filed a lawsuit for the “inhumane treatment.”

AG Ferguson looks to end solitary confinement for juveniles

This wasn’t the first time that Rodgers and the other boys, Damien Rivera and Ron Ackerson, have faced solitary confinement. On multiple occasions, they have been locked up in solitary, hands bound behind their backs, unable to eat, drink, or sleep for hours. Sentenced to nine years for their involvement in the robbery and murder of another teen, Wesley Gennings, Rodgers was sent to Green Hill School, a youth prison in Chehalis where they were repeatedly subject to solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement has repeatedly been shown to have serious long-term effects on prisoners, and the American Civil Liberties Union has decried its use on minors because of its impacts on their ability to reintegrate into society.

“Because their brains are still developing, children are highly susceptible to the prolonged psychological stress that comes from being isolated in prisons and jails,” Amy Roe, a senior writer for the ACLU said. “This stress can inhibit the development of parts of the brain—such as the pre-frontal cortex, which governs impulse control— causing irreparable damage. In other words, children subjected to solitary confinement are forced into a hole so deep they may never be able to climb out.”

“I’m happy that they are changing stuff so that no one has to go through the traumatic experience of being locked up in handcuffs and dealing with all that because it affects your psychology and your brain and everything,” said plaintiff Damien Rivera of the lawsuit’s outcome.

In addition to the damages awarded for the psychological torment undergone by the teens, the lawsuit also stipulates that the DCYF would work with Columbia Legal Services (CLS) to create new policies around strip searches and refusals. They have also changed the rules so that isolation and restraints cannot be used against youth for refusing a strip search unless there is a “specific, credible, ongoing threat to safety with no other way to resolve it.”

Youth who have been treated cruelly need a better answer from their caretakers than ‘This is just how things are done,’” said Sarah Nagy, a CLS attorney for the plaintiffs. “Because of these young men, the youth who move through the system after them will have protection they didn’t have.” 


Local News

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

KIRO 7 News Staff

WA Congresswoman announces $1.3M in federal funding for Kirkland Jail Addiction Treatment

U.S. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene has announced nearly $1.3 million to establish a new drug treatment program at the Kirkland City Jail.

5 minutes ago

FILE - The U.S. Capitol is seen on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congress ...

Associated Press

Government shutdown averted with little time to spare as Biden signs funding before midnight

The threat of a federal government shutdown suddenly lifted late Saturday as President Joe Biden signed a temporary funding bill to keep agencies open with little time to spare after Congress rushed to approve the bipartisan deal.

1 hour ago

carnation community...

Brittany Toolis, KIRO 7 News

‘The community is very traumatized’: Carnation residents air grievances over Tolt Dam false alarms

False alarms at Tolt Dam have sounded six times over the last three years with no emergency.

16 hours ago

DUI Bellevue...

KIRO 7 News Staff

Man dead after suspected DUI rollover crash in Bellevue

At about 4:10 a.m. Saturday, Bellevue officers and medics with the Bellevue Fire Department responded to the report of a single-vehicle crash.

1 day ago

Seattle Amazon walkout...

Bill Kaczaraba

Report: Amazon tells its employees it is monitoring badge swipes

Amazon says it is getting serious about its "get back to the office" policy, now monitoring individual badge swipes into office buildings.

1 day ago

Image: A cup of coffee...

Steve Coogan

Analysis: Seattle is not the No. 1 coffee city in the US

Seattle did not finish No. 1 in Wallet Hub's recently released list of the "Best Coffee Cities in America." Another West Coast city did.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

WA juvenile detention reforms solitary confinement practices upon settling lawsuit