Legislation passed today by the Senate will bar juvenile holding facilities from subjecting teens to solitary confinement. Having already passed the House, the bill now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

“Solitary confinement is damaging to youth. It traumatizes them and hinders their ability to learn, grow and reintegrate into society,” said Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds), the sponsor of House Bill 2277. “Subjecting kids to solitary confinement is nothing short of torture. Its end is way past due.”

Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), who sponsored companion legislation in the Senate, said a study of suicides in juvenile facilities revealed half of all suicides occurred while in isolation and 62 percent of the youth had experienced solitary confinement.

“Solitary confinement is especially damaging to young people, who are less developed and more vulnerable,” Wilson said. “It is an outdated practice that inflicts serious, lasting harm.”

HB 2277 passed the Senate on a 36-13 vote and will:

  • Limit the use of isolation to only emergency conditions, with strict guidelines for time and placement;
  • Require institutions to document any use of isolation or room confinement; and
  • Establish a process for the creation of model policies to follow when the use of isolation, room confinement, or less restrictive alternatives is deemed appropriate.

The legislation will align Washington with 10 states — including the nation’s two largest, California and Texas — that have passed laws to ban or limit solitary confinement for juveniles. When the state of Ohio reduced the use of solitary confinement by more than 88 percent in 2015, institutional violence decreased by more than 20 percent.