Thoughts About Juvenile Law in WA State

This is a quandary in Washington state and is wrapped up in state constitutional protections, law, and what we consider being in the best interest of the state and it is something I’m working with and am perplexed at this moment in time. It makes for great thought, I think…

In Washington state, public records are open constitutionally. This includes youth records. Technically including kids arrested, gone through dependency hearings, etc. (abused kids could find their records plastered all over). The way it works right now is that youth can work to seal their records over time as long as they accomplish a checklist. This is a bit like shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped because data/electronics means the records are out there. PLUS, Washington state sells the youth records to background check firms while they are still minors.

There is support in both houses to make youth records confidential. Confidentiality is better than sealing because it shuts the door before the horse is out. Sealing shuts the door afterwards.

But in order to make youth records confidential, the IT system has to be updated to accommodate some change in the record in the database that doesn’t make sense to me because making another field in a database really isn’t that hard. BUT whatever, the fiscal note is that it would take $500,000 do make an IT adjustment to attach to the confidential record bill that is currently in play. This would also, according to the IT people, stop the current and planned upgrade in its tracks and put all the IT people onto this problem and not on the upgrade.

There is thoughts of tweaking the bill to do the confidentiality thing but to implement in 5 years.

All in all, this is making me nuts. It seems so simple. (1) Don’t sell youth records. (2) Let’s just treat kids like kids and make their records confidential.

The upshot is that to make the lives and opportunities of youth that are in the most marginalized group (impoverished, undereducated, incarcerated), we could simply make their records confidential so it is easier for them to get a job and to get into college.

The interesting points, now that you’ve slogged through my current issue (and you thought be a chaplain was all spiritual God stuff!):

Where do we draw the line of competing interests such as state/child? And where does it stop being a “state” interest (open records) and it is being transformed into a “corporate” interest (credit bureaus, rental agencies, and newspapers are buying the records)? Is there a difference between state interests and corporate interests? Do you have an assumption that youth’s records are protected?

Where should the line be drawn?

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One thought on “Thoughts About Juvenile Law in WA State”

  1. Unfortunately humans are the new commodity. Our organs do have a valuable price tag on them as well as our blood. The next time you go to the Red Cross ask them how much it costs to have your blood given back to you. Yes it will cost you 10k to have that bag of blood YOUR cells given back to you.

    I think the issues became an issue once the state did become involved. Why not allow every city/town be responsible for their own abandoned youth? Why does an entire federal/state system have to be involved with kids? If Tommy down the street is getting beat by his meth head parents why cant we as a town or city knock down the door to Timmy’s house and give him to an ideal family. One that WANTS him. Every child needs to be WANTED. They do not NEED a home. There is a big difference and a child cannot have a HOME that is safe without feeling loved and wanted.

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