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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive Constantine directs Public Health to oversee King County juvenile detention reorganization

Summary

In an Executive Order signed today, King County Executive Dow Constantine directed Public Health – Seattle & King County and other county departments to provide a plan and timeline to restructure juvenile detention.

Story

As part of King County’s commitment to reduce traumatization of youth in detention, eliminate racial disparities in the juvenile justice system and advance the goal of zero youth detention, Executive Constantine directed a multi-departmental team under the oversight and direction of Public Health – Seattle & King County to draft a proposal reorganizing juvenile detention services.

In addition, Executive Constantine announced that King County will contract with a third-party validator, New York-based Vera Institute of Justice, to review its juvenile detention policies and practices, and recommend potential reforms.

"By adopting a public health approach, we limit the traumatization of youth in detention, and ensure families have access to supports and services in the community," said Executive Constantine. "Our Juvenile Detention Officers have embraced restorative justice, and they understand the challenges of adolescence. This Executive Order directs a comprehensive process with input from our officers and others to make a successful transition to Public Health, so that we can fully take advantage of all available resources and strategies to make a difference in the lives of our young people."

"The data on youth incarceration is clear. Simply locking young people up does not reduce recidivism and may in fact increase the likelihood that young offenders will reoffend," said Mayor Tim Burgess. "Here in Seattle, we already do better than a lot of jurisdictions in limiting the number of young people we detain and in steering troubled youth toward rehabilitative services when possible. But we can do more. Placing our juvenile detention system under the direction of Public Health is the right move for our young people, for the community as a whole, and for the goal of bringing research-backed solutions to the challenge of criminal justice reform."

  

The reorganization proposal will be created with input from the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee, the Children and Youth Advisory Board, criminal justice systems partners, and other community stakeholders. It will also identify potential labor impacts and other considerations.

A fiscal analysis will be developed prior to the 2019-2020 budget proposal.

Currently, the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention oversees operations at the Youth Services Center on East Alder Street.

Juvenile Detention has always employed a multi-disciplinary approach to delivering services to youth. Ninety-eight percent of the 131 current staff involved with the Youth Services Center have a college degree and extensive training. Staff will remain consistent in any potential reorganization, which will create the systems, services, and programs to support safe communities and the lifelong well-being of youth.

The young people who enter detention face a range of challenging life experiences and most will return to their communities in a matter of days. The Public Health approach will build on the promising efforts underway to transform Juvenile Detention into an environment that limits further traumatization, promotes resilience, and ensures youth and their families have access to needed supports and services.  This approach ultimately leads to better life success for youth and safer communities. 

Public Health and its partners will be working with community and system partners toward the best possible environment and services for youth in detention. For example, Public Health’s system and community partners will support training of staff to work with youth in detention, expanding innovative programs and alternatives to detention, and ensuring that the transitions out of detention are linked to an overall plan for each youth’s success. 

In addition, multiple professional service providers and volunteers deliver services in association with the facility including:
    • 910 volunteers
    • 40 professional service providers (School, Library, Health Clinic, Chaplain)
    • 30 from the Michael Bennett Foundation, Pearl Jam, and the Seattle Seahawks
    • 106 Worship Service volunteers 


Relevant links

Quotes

By adopting a public health approach, we limit the traumatization of youth in detention, and ensure families have access to supports and services in the community. Our Juvenile Detention Officers have embraced restorative justice, and they understand the challenges of adolescence. This Executive Order directs a comprehensive process with input from our officers and others to make a successful transition to Public Health, so that we can fully take advantage of all available resources and strategies to make a difference in the lives of our young people.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

The data on youth incarceration is clear. Simply locking young people up does not reduce recidivism and may in fact increase the likelihood that young offenders will reoffend. Here in Seattle, we already do better than a lot of jurisdictions in limiting the number of young people we detain and in steering troubled youth toward rehabilitative services when possible. But we can do more. Placing our juvenile detention system under the direction of Public Health is the right move for our young people, for the community as a whole, and for the goal of bringing research-backed solutions to the challenge of criminal justice reform.

Tim Burgess, Seattle Mayor

The executive order is a most welcomed paradigm shift in our approach to our young people who have and/or will have contact with our juvenile justice system.  Approaching juvenile justice from a public health standpoint will allow us to be more creative and flexible in reducing the racial and economic disparities in our system and, ultimately, have better outcomes for our youth and their families

Larry Gossett, King County Councilmember

This is another important step toward the vision of zero youth detention in King County.  Young people in King County deserve every chance to grow and succeed, and this latest reform shows our commitment to prevention-focused, community-oriented and science-driven approaches to help children and families thrive. This work will also inform our longer-range vision as we continue to develop our zero detention roadmap with the community.

Rhonda Berry, Deputy King County Executive

Public Health is about prevention at its core, and we’re excited to help build on the successful reforms in our juvenile detention system with a prevention-first approach that leverages our public health knowledge and networks. We look forward to working with our partners to develop this plan for our community’s future.

Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health - Seattle & King County

For more information, contact:

Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography