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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

King County Defends Juvenile Strip Searches In Detention

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At the juvenile detention facility in King County, Washington, strip searches are common practice at intake for serious and violent offenders or those accused of a drug crime.

County officials are defending the practice, but Washington lawmakers could impose new rules for when county juvenile facilities can order a strip search. Generally, a court order is required to strip-search someone. But there are exceptions in Washington law.

Mike West, a program manager at King County Detention, told a panel of lawmakers that strip searches are done to keep weapons and contraband out of the facility.

“While strip searches, we admit, are absolutely not the only possible way of ensuring that we do not bring contraband which may be harmful to the youth, which may be harmful to the staff and to the visitors, it is the most effective way,” he said.

West told lawmakers that female staff search females and male staff search males.

The proposal in the Washington legislature would make strip searches for juveniles a last resort and require other “less-intrusive” approaches first.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."