Like many states, Washington has taken actionable steps to improve the treatment of justice-involved youth. In light of research documenting the harm of solitary confinement, House Bill 2277—passed during the 2020 Legislative Session—prohibits the use of solitary confinement altogether, and limits the use of room confinement and isolation with the intention that facilities reduce their reliance on confinement in favor of other effective and less restrictive alternatives. In support of this directive, DCYF staff applied for and were selected to participate in Georgetown University’s Ending Isolation in Youth Facilities Certificate program.
Last year, a team of DCYF staff, including research staff, direct care, mental health staff, and JR headquarters staff, attended a week-long training in Washington, D.C., to learn from national juvenile justice experts, and design a capstone project to implement at Green Hill School. While JR facilities have made notable strides in reducing room confinement and isolation in recent years, the capstone project strives for further progress through engendering a culture of safety and well-being by ensuring that youth at highest risk of confinement receive wrap-around services.
In May 2022, the DCYF team traveled to Utah’s Division of Juvenile Justice and Youth Services (JJYS), one of Georgetown University’s Promising Practice Sites. While visiting, DCYF staff convened with leadership and direct care staff, toured Weber Valley and Mill Creek facilities, and discussed critical challenges and opportunities, including staffing levels, caring for and supporting staff, staff training, working with older youth populations, connecting families to the treatment process, and the use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Further, DCYF and JJYS staff were able to exchange ideas, successes, and challenges across specialized domains, including working with youth with high mental health needs, crisis intervention, policy improvements, and review processes.
“Our Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) team here in Washington does incredible work every day and is committed to continuous development and having a culture of learning,” said JR Assistant Secretary Felice Upton. “Getting to listen and share best practices with Utah is one of the ways we lean into our investment as an organization to create great outcomes for the youth we serve and the communities they come from.”