Dear Friends and Allies,
At our kick-off of Youth Advocacy Day 2019, Sec. Hunter of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) addressed a room full of passionate advocates by saying, “You are the most important voice in Olympia.” And, wow, was he right!
The Washington State 2019 legislative session proved to be a monumental one for youth: one about youth and driven by youth. The voices of young people across the state led the call to advocate for the issues that have a direct impact on their lives. Statewide, over 50 agencies, organizations, and coalitions rallied in support of The Mockingbird Society’s legislative priorities put forth by our legislative champions. A special thanks is owed to Sen. Darnielle, Rep. Frame, Rep. Senn, Rep. Dent, Sen. Nguyen, and Rep. Callan. After months of work and dedication by our youth advocates, the wisdom of lived experience prevailed. Youth advocacy equals impact!
The Washington State Legislature made great strides in juvenile justice reform and the inclusion of youth voice in policy reform, putting us on a better foundation for our response to children, youth and families in crisis. Informed by youth voice, brain science, evidence-based best practices, youth advocates from across the state accomplished several pieces of key legislative reform in partnership with Legislative champions, including:
E2SSB 5290: Ending the use of jail as a sanction for non-criminal behaviors. Specifically eliminates the use of the Valid Court Order to detain youth for status offenses
SB 5429: Establishes community juvenile accountability program guidelines and support programs that target youth who are referred to the program by law enforcement, rather than diverted or charged with a juvenile offense.
SSB 5815: Allows for juveniles placed in a minimum security facility to be in the community for up to 12 hours a day to participate in approved work, educational, community restitution, or treatment programs. It also excludes the unlawful use or possession of a controlled substance or an alcoholic beverage while in a community facility from a list of serious infractions requiring mandatory return to a facility.
SB 5640: Authorizes youth courts established under the supervision of a court of limited jurisdiction to dispose of civil infractions alleged to have been committed by juveniles age 12 through 17.
HB 1646: Extends the maximum age of confinement for individuals convicted in adult court of a crime that was committed while under age 18 from up to age 21 to up to age 25. It also modifies the types of cases where a court can decline juvenile court jurisdiction following a discretionary decline hearing.
In addition to these major juvenile justice reforms, the State will now also include two youth members on both the Department of Children, Youth and Families Oversight Board and the Office of Homeless Youth Advisory Committee.
Youth Advocacy had an incredible impact on the outcome of the Washington state 2019 legislative session. Now more than ever the voices youth with lived experience have prevailed against those aimed to continue a racist tradition of trauma and pain. And while our work has not finished, we have joined together to elevate the voices of those who are most affected.