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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Bill Would Ban The Use Of Solitary Confinement To Discipline Youth Offenders In Oregon

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Aerial view of MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, Oregon.

Oregon lawmakers are considering a measure that would ban the use of solitary confinement in Oregon Youth Authority facilities. Leaders of the agency testified in favor of the bill Wednesday.

They said it's already Youth Authority policy to avoid that form of discipline. One lawmaker on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked why a is law needed if that was the case.

Oregon Youth Authority Deputy Director Joe O'Leary said otherwise the policy could easily be reversed by future agency leaders.

"I would submit to you that it is an important enough issue that it is worthy of codification in statue,” he said.

O'Leary said the agency is trying to shift its focus from punishment to giving youth offenders the skills to lead productive lives. Ending the use of solitary confinement on youth was also a priority of the U.S. Department of Justice under the Obama administration.