Allen Nance brings more than three decades of criminal justice experience to his job running King County's adult jails, youth detention facility and community corrections programs.
A Sept. 6 vote by the Metropolitan King County Council confirmed Nance's appointment as director of the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention. He had been serving as director-designee since June, when Executive Dow Constantine named him to the job.
"I am very pleased to support Allen Nance's appointment as director of the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention," Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles said. "In all my interactions with him in his former position as division direct of DAJD"s Juvenile Division, Director Nance has demonstrated kindness, creativity, honesty, ingenuity, and determination. Those are all qualities that I know will serve him sell as he takes over leadership of a department that has openly been struggling with staffing and operational challenges as a result of the pandemic. Thank you, Director Nance, for your willingness to serve, and I look forward to working with you as you bring about needed changes in the department."
The department, known by the acronym DAJD, has about 900 budgeted positions across five divisions.
Nance joined King County in late 2019 to run DAJD’s Juvenile Division. In that role, he has helped to ensure safe youth detention operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nance will remain involved in strategic planning efforts toward the closure of King County’s secure youth detention facility by 2025. The county’s Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) is now leading this strategic planning effort.
“We are fortunate to have an experienced and committed leader within our ranks to continue the department’s vital work, and I thank Allen Nance for stepping into this role as we move forward,” County Executive Dow Constantine said.
Nance started his career in Illinois in the 1980s, where he rose to leadership positions at probation departments in DuPage and Cook counties. Immediately before arriving in King County, he worked in San Francisco, leading justice policy efforts and later serving as the city’s chief juvenile probation officer.
As DADJ’s director, his immediate priorities include rebuilding operations that have been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing shortages. He is focused on improving safety for people in the department’s care.
"There’s a lot of difficult work and many complex tasks ahead,” Nance said. “However, I am energized and confident that with the support and commitment of our dedicated and hardworking staff, and in partnership other agency and community stakeholders, we will continue to make great progress as we positively impact the lives of every person in our custody."
Over the medium and longer term, he is working to implement priorities outlined by elected officials to address equity and systemic racism. This includes creating a more therapeutic environment for people in custody and expanding appropriate alternatives to incarceration.
“Managing the County’s three secure detention facilities is one of the most sensitive and difficult services King County provides to our residents,” Council Chair Claudia Balducci said. “As we struggle to come out of the pandemic, our jails and youth detention are facing staffing challenges, increased bookings as violent crime increases in the community, and the continuing imperative to embrace reform that points toward a safer, more just future in a system that has seen endemic racial disparities for decades. These challenging times call for expert and thoughtful leadership, which is why we are fortunate to have an experienced new director in Allen Nance. I welcome him to this new role and offer my commitment to work with the Department to meet the critical challenges facing us.”