Oregon lawmakers are considering a measure that would officially limit the use of solitary confinement in Oregon Youth Authority facilities.
Leaders of the agency testified in favor of the bill Wednesday. They said it’s already Youth Authority policy to avoid that form of discipline.
However, there are some instances when isolation could be used.
“Isolation continues to be used for other reasons (besides discipline) – for example, if a youth needs a quiet place to regain self-control or regulate their emotions,” said Sarah Evans, deputy communications manager for the Youth Authority.
One lawmaker on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Dennis Linthicum, asked if OYA already follows the outlined isolation policy, why is a law needed?
Oregon Youth Authority Deputy Director Joe O’Leary said the policy otherwise could easily be reversed by future agency leaders.
“I would submit to you that it is an important enough issue that it is worthy of codification in statute,” O’Leary said.
O’Leary said the agency is trying to shift its focus from punishment to giving youth offenders the skills to lead productive lives.
Ending solitary confinement of youth was also a priority of the U.S. Department of Justice under the Obama administration.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the circumstances when Oregon Youth Authority would use isolation.