King County leaders today announced the largest and most diverse group the county has ever assembled to end racial disparity in the juvenile justice system. The committee will engage those most impacted by the juvenile justice system as members examine school, police, court and detention policies.
King County Executive Dow Constantine today joined with Superior Court Presiding Judge Susan Craighead and members of the King County Council to announce members of a countywide steering committee charged with recommending solutions to a growing racial disparity in the regional juvenile justice system. It is the largest and most diverse group King County has ever assembled to act on juvenile justice issues.
"Racial disparity has no place in our justice system, especially not in a system responsible for the well-being of our youth," said Executive Constantine. "Making the system impervious to the mostly unacknowledged, but nevertheless real biases that each of us carries with us is a tall order, and will require the partnership of everyone in our community."
"There is an urgent need to redefine how the juvenile justice system works," said Judge Craighead. "Lasting and effective reform depends on collaborative, community-informed actions to end racial disproportionalities in school discipline, arrest, and detention rates."
Among the members of the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee are parents, youth, mental-health and grassroots leaders. They are teaming up with the heads of school districts, law enforcement agencies and courts from across the County, including Seattle Police Department Chief Kathleen O'Toole, Highline School District Superintendent Susan Enfield, and Juvenile Court Judge Wesley Saint Clair. The panel includes youth who have experienced juvenile detention themselves, youth mentors, a foster parent and community-based advocates fighting to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by increasing effective alternatives to school suspensions and youth detention.
"We need to hold a mirror up to the system and the people who run the system before we even think about changing our youth," said committee member Dominique Davis, who has helped hundreds of King County youth see their charges dismissed through the 180 Program he coordinates in partnership with the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. "There has to be accountability to stop disproportionality."
The committee is being asked to develop recommendations for improving the outcomes of school, police, court and detention policies. The group will begin meeting in September to:
- Establish short- and long-term actions to help end racial disproportionality in King County's juvenile justice system
- Define metrics and create partnerships to improve juvenile justice system
- Identify root causes of racial disproportionality and specific solutions needed to address them in individual communities
- Engage communities by sharing information, then collecting and incorporating feedback
Members will eventually host community meetings to engage those most impacted by the juvenile justice system to inform their recommendations.
"It is imperative that this steering committee creates a new paradigm that moves us away from further criminalizing our children - especially youth of color - and moves King County towards creating equitable opportunities for all," said King County Councilmember Larry Gossett. "Our history consists of watershed moments where it's been more important for us to change; this is one of those moments."
"Most of the kids getting locked up are kids of color," said King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. "We need to explore why this is occurring and what the county needs to do to ensure fairness at every step of the process."
"We can end the inequities that lead to youth of color being over-represented in our juvenile justice system," said King County Councilmember Joe McDermott. "I thank the community members who have agreed to be part of this important work, and encourage everyone to learn about and engage in these efforts."
Although King County's youth detention rates have dropped more than 60 percent over the last decade, the proportion of youth of color in detention continues to rise. While only a tenth of the county's youth population is black, they almost made up half of the youth detention population last year. About three quarters of the overall 2014 detention population were non-white youth.
Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee
Youth & Parents
Matt Griffin YMCA Director of Youth and Family Programs, YMCA of Greater Seattle
Former Youth Development Specialist at the Mockingbird Society
Senior Leadership Development Director, YMCA of Greater Seattle
Superintendent, Seattle Public Schools
Superintendent, Highline Public Schools
Calvin J. Watts
Superintendent, Kent School District
Superintendent, Federal Way Public Schools
President, Glover Empower Mentoring Program
Community Justice Program Director, American Friends Service Committee
Executive Director, SafeFutures
Political Organizer, LELO (Legacy of Equality, Leadership, and Organizing)
LGBTQ Refugee/Immigrant Outreach Specialist, Seattle Counseling Service
Dr. Gary Perry
Sociology Professor, Seattle University
Executive Director, TeamChild
Executive Director, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation
Program Coordinator, 180 Program
State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
Dr. Heather Clark
Rainier Scholar, Cultural Anthropologist at University of Washington
Dr. Edward Donaldson
Pastor, Kingdom Family Worship Center
Imam, Muslim community leader
Prosecuting Attorney's Office, King County
Judge Susan Craighead
Presiding Judge, King County Superior Court
Judge Wesley Saint Clair
Chief Juvenile Court Judge, King County Superior Court
Public Defender, King County
Dr. Eric Trupin
Director and Vice Chair, University of Washington Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Program Manager, Navos Child Youth and Family Department, Member of Navos Equity and Inclusion Committee
Chief, Seattle Police Department
King County Sheriff
Chief, Tukwila Police Department
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Alexa Vaughn, 206-477-9463