The legislature finds that it is a goal of our state to divert juveniles who have committed status offenses, behaviors that are prohibited under law only because of an individual's status as a minor, away from the juvenile justice system because a stay in detention is a predictive factor for future criminal justice system involvement. The legislature finds that Washington has been using the valid court order exception of the juvenile justice and delinquency prevention act, a loophole in federal law allowing judges to detain status offenders for disobeying court orders, more than any other state in the country. The legislature finds that use of the valid court order exception to detain youth for acts like truancy, breaking curfew, or running away from home is counterproductive and may worsen outcomes for at-risk youth.
The legislature further finds that these youth should not be confined with or treated with the same interventions as criminal offenders. The legislature also finds that studies show a disproportionality in race, gender, and socioeconomic status of youth referred to courts or detained, or both. Likewise, the legislature finds that community-based interventions are more effective at addressing underlying causes of status offenses than detention and can reduce court caseloads and lower system costs. As a result, it is the intent of the legislature to strengthen and fund community-based programs that are culturally relevant and focus on addressing disproportionality of youth of color, especially at-risk youth.
The bill then proposes that the state of Washington eliminate the use of juvenile detention as a remedy for contempt of a valid court order for youth under chapters 13.34 and 28A.225 RCW and child in need of services petition youth under chapter 13.32A RCW. As of July 20, 2019, such youth may not be committed to juvenile detention as a contempt sanction under chapter 13.32A, 13.34, or 28A.225 RCW, and a warrant may not be issued for such youth for failure to appear at a court hearing that requires commitment of such youth to juvenile detention.
It is also the policy of the state of Washington to phase out entirely he use of juvenile detention as a remedy for contempt of a valid court order for at-risk youth under chapter 28 13.32A RCW by July 1, 2021. After this date, at-risk youth may not be committed to juvenile detention as a contempt sanction under chapter 30 13.32A RCW, and a warrant may not be issued for failure to appear at a court hearing that requires commitment of the at-risk youth to juvenile detention.
Until July 1, 2021, any at-risk youth committed to juvenile detention as a sanction for contempt under chapter 13.32A RCW, or for failure to appear at a court hearing under chapter 13.32A RCW, must be detained in such a manner so that no direct communication or physical contact may be made between the youth and any youth who is detained to juvenile detention pursuant to a violation of criminal law.
Additionally, the bill states that the Department of Children, Youth, And Families must provide, if requested by the family, family reconciliation services, and report to the legislature beginning 12-1-19 on the use of such services, outcomes, and recommendations for improvement.