by Dale Chappell
In August 2018, King County, Washington agreed to pay $240,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by four juveniles who were placed in solitary confinement at the county’s Regional Justice Center (RJC) in Kent. The settlement includes policy changes to ensure juvenile offenders are not held in solitary and have access to educational services.
Although the case was filed as a class-action it had not been certified at the time of settlement, thus other juveniles who were placed in solitary can file individual claims.
Travis Andrews, a juvenile justice policy analyst with Columbia Legal Services (CLS), interviewed 30 juveniles who had been charged as adults and held in solitary confinement at the jail for 23 to 24 hours a day; one remained in segregation for eight months.
“I spoke to most of the kids on a weekly basis and I could physically see the difference in [them] throughout that period of time,” Andrews said. “That was something that was very difficult to watch [them] kind of deteriorate over that time period.”
In an effort to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), the county placed most juveniles charged as adults in solitary. As a result of the settlement they will no longer be held in segregation except for short periods of time under limited circumstances. Further, the settlement requires that solitary not be used for punishment or discipline, and only used when “necessary to prevent imminent and significant physical harm to the juvenile detained or to others and less restrictive alternatives were unsuccessful.”
A monitor will provide reports on the county’s compliance with the settlement terms.
“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,” stated CLS attorney Nick Straley. “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 $240,000 settlement will be split by the four plaintiffs, less $25,000 in attorney fees.
Additionally, the Kent School District agreed to pay $25,000 “to make up for the educational hours the teens were denied while in isolation,” and the district will “reform its policies and procedures regarding the educating of youth held at the RJC.” See: C.S. v. King County, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Wash.), Case No. 2:17-cv-01560-JCC.
Additional sources: kuow.org, Seattle Times, columbialegal.org
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Related legal case
C.S. v. King County
|U.S.D.C. (W.D. Wash.), Case No. 2:17-cv-01560-JCC