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Juveniles Transferred or Waived to the Adult Criminal Court System

Washington State law is more restrictive than federal regulations regarding sight and sound separation for juveniles who have been remanded or transferred to adult court jurisdiction (per RCW 72.01.415—an offender under age 18 who is convicted in adult criminal court of a crime and who is committed for a term of confinement in a jail must be housed in a jail cell that does not contain adult offenders, until the offender reaches the age of 18; and RCW 72.01.410—a juvenile under age 18 who is convicted in adult criminal court and confined in an adult Dept. of Corrections facility must be placed in a separate housing unit…that is separated from offenders 18 years of age or older, until the offender reaches the age of 18).


RCW 72.01.410 also states that …” the secretary of corrections…with the consent of the secretary of social and health services, may transfer such child to a juvenile correctional institution, or to such other institution as is now, or may hereafter be authorized by law to receive such child, until such time as the child arrives at the age of 21 years, whereupon the child shall be returned to the institution of original commitment,”…


The state’s previous practice was to transfer these remanded youth from the juvenile correctional facility, operated by the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA), to an adult facility within six months after the juvenile reached the state’s age of majority (18 years), consistent with the former OJJDP interpretation of the separation requirement, which was required of states. However, per the August 2008 memo from the OJJDP Administrator which revises the previous interpretation and provides “that the continued placement of a member of the TCW population in a juvenile facility, not to exceed the state’s maximum age of extended juvenile jurisdiction, does not constitute a sight and sound separation requirement violation. This decision provides states the maximum flexibility allowed under the Act regarding the placement of members of the TCW population.”

Hence, Washington State law and the revised federal interpretation are consistent and allow a juvenile who has been transferred or waived to criminal court jurisdiction to be held in a juvenile facility, not to exceed the state’s maximum age of extended juvenile jurisdiction (21 years). The state will continue to utilize this exception in allowing juveniles who have been transferred or waived to adult court jurisdiction and sentenced to the DOC to be transferred to the JRA, and may be held in juvenile facilities until they reach age 21.

Separation and the Housing of Juveniles Who Have Been Transferred To Adult Court Jurisdiction And Who Are Held Locally Pre-Sentencing: In February-March 2008, the former state advisory group, the GJJAC, distributed a framework for consideration to Sheriffs, Jail Administrators and Juvenile Court Administrators that provides a model policy/practice regarding the housing of juveniles who have been transferred to adult court jurisdiction and who are held locally pre-sentencing. The framework is based on the premise that pre-trial and pre-sentencing time should conform to the same restrictions (at a minimum) as post-sentencing and commitment, with regard to the separation of remanded juveniles from adults.


The following background information was provided: Washington State laws require that juveniles transferred to adult criminal court be housed in a separate cell if convicted and committed to a term of confinement in an adult jail, or that they be placed in a separate housing unit from adult inmates if committed to a term of confinement in a DOC correctional facility (most remanded juveniles are transferred from DOC to JRA—the Youthful Offender Program, and held at Green Hill training school). Washington State law is silent on the question of separation of remanded juveniles during the pre-trial period if they are detained in an adult jail. State law does specifically provide that juveniles subject to adult superior court jurisdiction who are detained pending trial may be detained in a juvenile detention facility pending sentencing; they are not required to be sight and sound separated from non-remanded juveniles. Relevant state laws: RCW 13.04.030 (4); 13.04.116; 72.01.415; 72.01.410.

The following framework was provided for consideration:

  • Develop an agreement or MOU between the juvenile court director/administrator, adult jail/corrections administration, and superior court judges regarding the housing of juvenile declines or remands under age 18. The agreement would be in place for the time span from the transfer of the case to criminal court until they are convicted in, or discharged from, criminal court, and would provide that these youth would be housed at the local (or regional) juvenile detention facility during this time period.
  • Transfer any juvenile held initially (and for no more than six hours) for identification and other processing from the local jail/corrections facility to the local juvenile detention facility; the detention facility would be responsible for providing ongoing housing and age-appropriate services, including education, until the juvenile has been convicted in adult court of a criminal offense, or discharged from incarceration by the Court. The juvenile once remanded would be recorded on the jail’s recordkeeping system regardless of facility location.
  • The juvenile court/detention administration would retain the discretion to transfer or return any juvenile housed under the agreement back to the jail in the event of a significant management issue or security-related concern (i.e., dangerous, violent or destructive remanded juveniles that cannot be managed at the juvenile facility).
  • If remanded juveniles under age 18 are held in the adult jail, they should be segregated from the adult population to the greatest extent possible (sight and sound separation), and housed in a separate cell or in a cell with other remanded juveniles at a minimum. A decline of jurisdiction order must be provided for any remanded juvenile housed in an adult jail at the time of booking. Age-appropriate services and education must be provided, and other special needs for juveniles must be considered, including mental health needs and nutritional requirements.

Washington State has historically met (or exceeded) federal JJDP Act sight and sound separation requirements, and has been found in full compliance with the separation core requirement.