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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Re-thinking the juvenile legal system: new investments on the Road to Zero Youth Detention

Summary

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the completed report, Road Map to Zero Youth Detention – a strategic plan to guide future investments and policies to support families and further reduce the number of young people involved in the legal system. In his proposed 2019-2020 budget, Executive Constantine includes funding to help expand solutions to improve community safety and help young people thrive.

Story

Following Executive Constantine’s call for new ways of thinking about community safety and criminal justice in his 2017 State of the County, leaders from King County Superior Court, Public Health Seattle & King County, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Department of Public Defense, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Department of Community and Human Services set about to gather public input and outline practical solutions.

The effort became known as the Road Map to Zero Youth Detention.

Road Map community engagement included a digital survey with more than 2,100 respondents, as well as meetings and focus groups with more than 180 participants. Nineteen parents or guardians and 12 youth also provided input and case histories. The report draws on community recommendations from the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee, the Children and Youth Advisory Board, and other community members and organizations.

The Road Map report findings include:
• Community-based diversion options should become the primary response for most youth who come into contact with the legal system.
• Organizations that involve youth such as school districts, child welfare systems, law enforcement, physical and behavioral health providers, and housing agencies must form closer partnerships and collaborations to better support youth and families at the earliest point possible.

As part of his proposed 2019-2020 budget to be transmitted to the King County Council, Executive Constantine included $4 million to support actions called for in the Road Map. Each one of these investments funds promising strategies or provides judges and others with greater options for youth in crisis.

1. $1 million for community organizations supporting youth diverted out of secure detention.
These funds will be available for community-based services to provide mentoring, case management, and educational services. This investment is intended to encourage juvenile court judges to consider electronic home monitoring if there are concerns about whether a youth has the support to meet court dates, make appointments, and stay connected with family, school, and community. Depending on how employed by judges, this program could reach 40-60 youth each year, reducing the daily population of youth in detention by 3-6 when fully deployed.

2. $700,000 for evidence-based behavioral health services for youth BEFORE they get involved with the legal system.
At the moment, youth are eligible to receive state-supported services, including mental health and substance abuse treatment, after prosecutors file a case. This funding makes such services available without involvement in the juvenile legal system. Referrals will come from a behavioral health intervention program available in King County middle schools.

3. $400,000 to continue the Community Empowered Disposition Alternative and Resolution (CEDAR) program, expedited case processing for certain first time felony cases.
This funding supports peace circles and other restorative justice programs for youth whose first-time felonies such as Robbery, Assault, Motor Vehicle Theft, and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm have been reduced through CEDAR’s new “expedited” process. If the youth successfully engages with community-based interventions, charges may be further reduced or dismissed. If not, the case is resolved as a misdemeanor. CEDAR is expected to serve 150-200 youth annually.

4. $250,000 for family support services for families with a youth in detention.
Of this funding, $200,000 will provide transportation services to families, such as transit, ride share, or taxi fare. The focus will be to remove barriers for families to visit their children in detention. This will include providing families the means to attend the first court appearance, to show judges that youth have support and are potential candidates for electronic home monitoring or other alternatives to detention.  The balance of $50,000 will produce a multi-lingual handbook and other materials for parents whose youth are in detention, and engage family focus groups to identify further ways to support parents, guardians, and others.

5. $25,000 for training of juvenile detention staff.
As part of Public Health – Seattle & King County’s management of detention programming, all 108 juvenile detention officers and supervisors are now receiving training in adolescent brain development, motivational interviewing, and de-escalation techniques. This funding ensures this training is maintained and provided for all new detention staff.

6. $250,000 to support the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee.
Formed in 2015, the JJESC is charged with recommending solutions to racial disparities in the regional juvenile legal system. These funds will provide an outside facilitator and continued administrative support.

7. $1.4 million for coordination and staffing of Zero Youth Detention, the Public Health approach in detention, and enhancing data. To include convening school partners to examine discipline practices, understanding new school discipline standards from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. 
This funding will support two full time project managers and a half-time data analyst.

“Zero Youth Detention is not merely an aspiration, but an accountability measure. It compels us to ask: how can we provide justice for the victim and protect the community, while offering the best chance for redemption? How can we better understand and eliminate bias in the legal system? How can we ensure a different outcome for the next kid?” said Executive Constantine. “The Road Map outlines the way forward, and gives direction and inspiration to all the agencies, organizations, and individuals with the power to help shape young lives. Only by working together can we truly make a difference for youth, families and community.”

In the years ahead, the County will actively seek partnerships with community, philanthropy, higher education, the state and federal government, local jurisdictions, victims’ organizations, law enforcement and the private sector to support and expand the work of Zero Youth Detention. The County will also continue convening and consulting with community, employee, and labor partners to inform implementation.
 
Public Health – Seattle & King County will be charged with measuring impact and tracking progress, and will create a dashboard on its website to follow implementation and adjustments. In addition, Public Health will submit required reports to the King County Council each June through 2021.

Relevant links

Quotes

Zero Youth Detention is not merely an aspiration, but an accountability measure. It compels us to ask: how can we provide justice for the victim and protect the community, while offering the best chance for redemption? How can we better understand and eliminate bias in the legal system? How can we ensure a different outcome for the next kid? The Road Map outlines the way forward, and gives direction and inspiration to all the agencies, organizations, and individuals with the power to help shape young lives. Only by working together can we truly make a difference for youth, families and community.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Superior Court looks forward to further collaboration with the County Executive and our community partners.  The Roadmap to Zero Youth Detention builds on the extensive work we continue to do to examine and reform the juvenile legal system with an eye towards equitable, restorative and therapeutic responses. We are encouraged by the focus on upstream solutions that will prevent young people from entering the legal system.  The Roadmap provides recommendations that strengthen communities and continue the commitment to provide effective interventions for those who do become involved with the legal system and provides a framework to expand efforts.

Wesley Saint Clair, Chief Juvenile Judge

This Road Map strengthens community-based resources that enable youth to be successful in their homes, their schools and their communities. It will help keep youth out of detention. It will help those who enter the system avoid the harm of a criminal conviction. And it reflects a deep commitment to our young people and to the communities that embrace them. We fully support this road map and the concrete and specific programs it creates in support of our county’s youth.

Anita Khandelwal, director of the Department of Public Defense

To get to Zero Youth Detention it’s going to take authentic relationships, compromise and a willingness to not demonize those who have been accused of crime, nor the communities they come from, or the systems that have historically chosen incarceration over restoration.

Sean Goode, executive director of Choose 180

For more information, contact:

Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

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