Washington No.1 for jailing noncriminal youth, spurred by law named for Tacoma runaway

Washington state jails the most young people for noncriminal offenses because of a law passed decades ago. Now even the parents of the victim that helped pass the law say it has gone too far.

News Story (Washington)

July 11, 2015
Full story

Tags: Children & Juvenile, Juvenile Justice, School-to-Prison Pipeline

Organizations mentioned/involved: Columbia Legal Services (Washington State)


It’s the same photo Rebecca Hedman’s parents took to Olympia 20 years ago to push lawmakers to pass the Becca Bill, which gave parents more authority to seek help for their runaway children.

Yet today, critics say the law passed in the 13-year-old’s memory does more harm than good. It is the main reason Washington leads the nation in the number of times judges send children to jail for noncriminal offenses, such as skipping school or running away.

Becca’s mother and father, Darlene and Dennis Hedman, now say the law isn’t working as they intended: as a way to connect troubled children with resources and professional help.