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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | WA

Washington: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 



  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Washington Encourages Diversion and Treatment for Youth with Mental Health Issues: Acknowledging the high number of youth entering the juvenile justice system with mental health problems and the importance of diverting such youth into mental health treatment, the Washington State Legislature increased diversion opportunities for youth suspected of suffering from mental disorders. The law authorizes police to take youth who have committed non-serious offenses and are suspected of having mental disorders to an evaluation and treatment facility. Youth must be examined within three hours of arrival at these facilities and may be held for up to 12 hours. The legislation also specifically authorizes courts to assess diverted youth or youth who are granted deferred dispositions for substance abuse and mental health problems, and to order outpatient treatment if such assessments indicate it is warranted, but has not been identified as net-widening. H.B. 1524/Act No. 179, signed into law May 8, 2013; effective July 28, 2013.
  • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Washington Reforms Exclusionary School Discipline Policies: The Washington State Legislature passed a law to reform school discipline policies that exclude youth from school. The law ends the use of indefinite, open-ended exclusions from school; requires emergency expulsions to automatically end or be converted to another corrective action within 10 school days; requires school districts to make reasonable efforts to assist students in returning to school, including convening re-engagement meetings with students and parents to plan for each student’s return; directs the collection of more robust discipline data that will be cross-tabulated, disaggregated, and made publicly available; and requires a discipline task force to develop standard definitions for discretionary disciplinary actions in order to help with data collection and to investigate the provision of educational services during any period of exclusion. S.B. 5946/Act No. 18, signed into law June 30, 2013; effective September 28, 2013.

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  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Washington Encourages Use of Restorative Justice Programs for Diverted Youth: In order to encourage better utilization of restorative justice alternatives, which had not been commonly used by diversion boards, Washington State added the term “restorative justice programs” to the list of programs to which youth can be referred when they are diverted from prosecution. H.B. 1775/Act No. 201, signed into law March 30, 2012; effective June 7, 2012.
  • Organizational and Large-Scale Change — Washington Continues to Push for Use of Evidence-Based Practices: Based on the positive reports produced by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, the Washington State Legislature passed a law requiring a thorough overview, inventory, and assessment of evidence-based, research-based, and promising practices in the areas of child welfare, juvenile rehabilitation, and children’s mental health services. The legislation aims to develop a baseline understanding of the availability and use of such practices in the state, understand their cost-effectiveness, and increase their use in the state in a culturally competent manner. The inventory is updated regularly. H.B. 2536/Act No. 232, signed into law March 30, 2012; effective June 7, 2012.
  • Screening and Assessment — Youth Entering Detention Must Be Screened for Developmental Disabilities: By December 31, 2012, counties in Washington State were required to develop and implement detention intake and risk assessment standards for determining whether youth are developmentally disabled. The requirement aims to help the state meet its goal of keeping youth in the community prior to adjudication whenever possible by accurately assessing their risk and needs, and of providing safe and rehabilitative care for youth in detention. S.B. 6157/Act No. 120, signed into law March 29, 2012; effective June 7, 2012.
  • Confidentiality and Expungement — Youth Who Complete Deferred Dispositions Are Eligible for Record Sealing: Washington State youth whose convictions are vacated after fulfilment of the requirements of a deferred disposition order are now eligible to have their records sealed. Once these youth reach age 18 and have paid required restitution, their files are automatically sealed at an administrative hearing. S.B. 6240/Act No. 177, signed into law March 29, 2012; June 7, 2012.
  • Sexual Exploitation of Youth — Victims of Human Trafficking Provided Affirmative Defense to Prostitution Charges: An affirmative defense to the charge of prostitution is now available to youth who have been victims of human trafficking. Individuals who were victims of human trafficking and were convicted of prostitution may apply to have their convictions vacated and records sealed, based on a presumption that anyone engaged in the sex trade is the subject of trafficking. S.B. 6255/Act No. 142, signed into law March 29, 2012; effective June 7, 2012.


  • Confidentiality and Expungement — Youth May Petition Courts to Seal Certain Records; Legislature Protects Youth from Consumer Reporting: Washington State juvenile courts may now seal the records of youth who committed Class A felonies and sex offenses. Youth who remain crime-free for five years after their release from confinement and have complied with all other conditions of their disposition, including restitution, may ask the court to vacate the adjudication and seal their records from public view. The law also states that if a youth receives a full and unconditional pardon, the proceedings in the matter upon which the pardon was granted must be treated as if they never occurred, and the youth may reply accordingly to any inquiry; all court and law enforcement records must be destroyed within 30 days. The legislation builds upon a law passed in 2010 (S.B. 6561/Ch. 150, signed into law March 22, 2010; effective June 10, 2010). The 2011 law additionally established a joint legislative task force on sealing juvenile records, whose final report includes various proposals around record sealing along with cost estimates. Lastly—addressing a practice that keeps many formerly system-involved youth from achieving their career goals—law now prohibits any consumer reporting agency from including in a consumer report the subject’s juvenile records if he or she is 21 years of age or older at the time of the report. H.B. 1793/Ch. 333, signed into law May 12, 2011; effective July 22, 2011.
  • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Legislature Standardizes Definition of Unexcused Absence: Thanks in part to the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, and pursuant to legislative requirements, the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction developed a uniform definition of excused and unexcused absences to be used across the state. Prior to the standardization of the definition, schools allowed different numbers of unexcused absences prior to filing a petition in juvenile court. School districts are now required to report school absence data using the new definition. H.B. 1087/Ch. 50, signed into law and effective June 15, 2011.
  • Sex Offender Laws and Registries — Legislature Eliminates Duty to Register for Certain Individuals: Five years after their release from confinement, individuals in Washington convicted of a Class A felony sex or kidnapping offense at the age of 15 or older no longer have to register as sex offenders. Similarly situated individuals who were 14 years old or younger at the time of the offense, or individuals convicted of a non-Class A sex or kidnapping offense, may petition the court to be relieved of the duty to register two years after their release from confinement. The legislation also creates a uniform burden of proof for individuals who petition the court for relief from the duty to register as sex offenders for offenses committed as juveniles, and allows authorities to seal most juvenile sex offense records when the convicted individual has been relieved of the duty to register and complied with all other statutory requirements. S.B. 5204/Ch. 338, signed into law May 12, 2011; effective July 22, 2011.
  • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — Juvenile Rehabilitation Authority Focuses on Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities: Due in part to its participation in the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, Washington’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Authority (JRA) reorganized and prioritized its work to address racial and ethnic disparities. In 2010, the JRA Assistant Secretary issued a directive requiring the disaggregation of data by race, ethnicity, and gender for all reports generated in the normal course of business, establishing baseline measures to examine disproportionate minority contact in JRA as well as the effectiveness of DMC intervention strategies. In 2011, JRA reviewed internal release decision-making and is now implementing practices to reduce subjectivity in assessments used for determining risk level. In December 2011, JRA issued executive orders to increase youth access to community-based programs. JRA also created a program administrator position focused on reentry, transition, and education. Lastly, JRA committed to ongoing quality assurance to ensure that the changes in tools and polices lead to actual reductions in racial and ethnic disparities at the point of release.

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  • Screening and Assessment — Clark County Institutes Screening for Youth Referred to Truancy Program: As part of its work through the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, Clark County, Washington instituted the use of the MAYSI-2 (Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument) for all youth referred to the Clark County Truancy Project. The use of this instrument has allowed the county to more quickly identify the needs of the youth referred to the program and then appropriately link those youth to relevant services in the community. The program has instituted a new database to track how many youth are effectively connected to services. The Clark County Truancy Project was one of the first programs to test the MAYSI-2 with status offending youth; the instrument is now also in use at the neighboring Cowlitz County Truancy Program.
  • Sexual Exploitation of Youth — Legislature Addresses Sexual Exploitation of Youth: In 2009, the Washington State Legislature passed a law allowing a prosecutor to divert a case where a youth is alleged to have committed prostitution or prostitution loitering, regardless of the youth’s offense history or previous diversions. H.B. 1505/Ch. 252, signed into law April 28, 2009; effective July 26, 2009. A new law passed in 2010 takes the changes a step further: Washington law now requires a prosecutor to divert a youth alleged to have committed the offense of prostitution or prostitution loitering if it is his or her first offense; the prosecutor may divert subsequent allegations. And, as of July 1, 2011, the state may file a CHINS (Child In Need of Services) petition for sexually exploited youth and must connect such youth with services and treatment. A youth charged with prostitution who is also a victim of sexual abuse may apply for benefits from the Crime Victim’s Compensation fund. S.B. 6476/Ch. 289, signed into law April 1, 2010; Section 1 effective July 1, 2011, other sections effective June 10, 2010.
  • Girls in the System — State Limits Use of Restraints on Pregnant Women and Girls: Washington law now bans all use of restraints on women and girls who are in labor or are recovering postdelivery. No correctional personnel are allowed in the room during labor or childbirth unless specifically requested by medical staff. The law additionally states that except in extraordinary circumstances, no restraints of any kind may be used on incarcerated pregnant women or girls in transit to or from medical appointments and court during the third trimester of pregnancy, or during postpartum recovery. If restraints are ever used on a pregnant woman or girl, they must be the least restrictive available and the most reasonable under the circumstances; the use of leg irons or waist chains is never permitted on a pregnant woman or girl. The law requires information about the requirements to be posted in correctional facilities, provided to staff involved in the transportation of pregnant women, and provided to pregnant women and girls themselves. H.B. 2747/Ch. 181, signed into law March 23, 2010; effective June 10, 2010.
  • Status Offenses — State Comes into Compliance with Federal Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders Requirement: Thanks in part to Washington’s work with the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, in 2010, the two largest of the four Secure Crisis Residential Centers (SCRCs) co-located in juvenile detention facilities closed. SCRCs are used to house youth reported as runaways or youth believed to be in a dangerous, unsafe situation. Prior to the closures, four of the nine total SCRCs in Washington were co-located in secure juvenile detention facilities. The closure of the two SCRCs enabled the state to come into compliance with the deinstitutionalization of status offenders (DSO) requirement of the federal Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act.

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  • Organizational and Large-Scale Change — Non-Identifying Juvenile Court Records to Be Available for Research Purposes: For the purpose of research only, the Administrative Office of the Courts in Washington must maintain an electronic research copy of all records in the judicial information system related to youth. Access is restricted to the Washington State Center for Court Research, which must protect all confidential records and preserve the anonymity of any people identified in them. The law additionally directs the court to release to the Washington State Office of Public Defense records needed for the office’s oversight and technical assistance, on the condition of maintaining confidentiality. H.B. 1238/Ch. 440, signed into law May 11 2009; effective July 26, 2009.
  • Youth in the Adult System — Education Programs Must Be Provided to Youth in Adult Jails: A new law requires that all youth held in adult jails in Washington be provided with educational programming. The legislation stemmed from a lawsuit and settlement affecting the Pierce County jail and Tacoma School District in 2009 over inadequate educational services for youth held in adult jails. The legislation mandates that the educational programs adhere to educational standards for the district, and the programs must offer credits that are transferable to community schools. The school district in which the adult jail is located must provide youth with educational programming within five days of receiving notification from the jail of the youth’s presence. The state developed regulations and a program guide written by educational professionals in order to implement the statute. S.B. 6702/Ch. 226, signed into law March 26, 2010; effective June 10, 2010.
  • Screening and Assessment — Pierce County Modifies Detention Risk Assessment Instrument to Limit Unnecessary Detention Holds: The MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Executive Steering Committee in Pierce County, Washington voted to remove domestic violence charges as an automatic hold on its detention risk assessment instrument in June 2009. This change allows youth charged with domestic violence to be evaluated for detention on the basis of their risk factors, rather than being automatically incarcerated because of the nature of the charge.
  • Confidentiality and Expungement — Courts Must Seal Records of Youth Who Have Successfully Completed Deferred Disposition: Washington courts are now required, within 30 days after a youth’s 18th birthday, to seal a youth’s records of deferred disposition, provided that the youth does not have any pending charges. Previously, the law directed the court to vacate the convictions of youth who had completed the requirements for a deferred disposition, but did not address the sealing of records. H.B. 1954/Ch. 236, signed into law April 25; effective July 26, 2009.
  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — State Uses Data to Inform Practice: Working with the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, the Washington State Center for Court Research (WSCCR) constructed an Assessments Research Database, which compiles detailed information on all youth adjudicated delinquent who are screened as medium- to high-risk for future offending. The purpose of the assessment is to assign youth to appropriate evidence-based treatment, and to track the effects of treatment on attitudes and behavior. The center will develop a series of reports analyzing responsiveness to treatment and recidivism that will assist with the day-to-day management of juvenile probation, inform treatment provision, and help evaluate the effectiveness of program modifications and promising practices. Also in partnership with Models for Change, WSCCR developed the Court Contact and Recidivism Database to track recidivism outcomes and examine overlap between types of court contact, as well as the Education Research Database to evaluate Washington’s truancy process.
  • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Legislature Reforms Truancy Procedures: The Washington State Legislature made several changes to the state’s truancy practices and procedures. The law states that if a student or parent is not fluent in English, the school should provide a notice of unexcused absence or notice of truancy hearing in a language in which the parent(s) or guardian is fluent. If the student is in a special education program or has a diagnosed mental disorder, the court must inquire as to what efforts the school district has made to assist the youth in attending school. If a youth is not provided with counsel at a truancy hearing, the court must conduct a colloquy on the record advising the youth and his or her parents of their rights before entering a truancy order. An arrest warrant relating to truancy must not be served on a student inside a school during school hours in a place where other students are present. Detention as a sanction for truancy must be limited to seven days. Lastly, the legislature encourages the use of community truancy boards and other diversion programs that are effective in promoting school attendance and preventing the need for more intrusive court intervention. S.B. 5881/Ch. 266, signed into law April 28, 2009; effective July 26, 2009.
  • Sex Offender Laws and Registries — Individuals with Youth Adjudications for Sex Offenses Must Be Notified of Right to Removal from Registries: The Washington State Patrol must provide notice to individuals registered for a sex offense or kidnapping offense committed when they were juveniles of the ability to petition for relief from the duty to register. The notice must be provided at least annually. S.B. 5326/Ch. 210, signed into law April 24, 2009; effective July 26, 2009.

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Photo: eldan, under Creative Commons License.