Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, Washington.
Enlarge Icon
Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, Washington.

Teens in solitary confinement: King County Council says they didn’t know

King County Council members questioned officials about why the county is still using solitary confinement on young people after the practice was mostly banned two years ago.

A recent report from an independent monitor found that the county used solitary confinement on 15 young people over a five-month period.

Shannon Braddock, the deputy chief of staff for King County Executive Dow Constantine, told the council that the change has taken extra time in order to work with the unions that represent jail staff.

So far, that process has only been completed for employees at the youth jail — not employees at the adult facilities.

The lack of communication irritated Law and Justice Committee chair Larry Gossett.

“Nobody called us and said, 'Oh the workers are still bargaining this and we don’t want you to evaluate and judge us on this until we get concurrence from them.' We’re just told everything is pretty good, everything is moseying along. It’s extremely troubling,” Gossett said.

The ban was passed after a federal lawsuit was filed by Columbia Legal Services on behalf of four teenagers formerly jailed in a King County solitary confinement unit.

In August, the county settled the suit, paying $240,000 to the teens and their families, including legal costs.

During public comment, Columbia Legal Services' Travis Andrews pointed behind him towards the King County jail. “Right now there is a child in solitary confinement right behind us," Andrews said.

During the briefing, Gossett postponed a vote that would have released $100,000 to the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention.

The council committee also requested that an independent monitor revisit the issue this summer.