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Is there truly a road map to zero youth detention?

Protesters oppose a new Children and Family Justice Center in Seattle. (KIRO 7 file photo)

Is there ever a time when we should give up on a child?

That is the question posed Wednesday by King County Executive Dow Constantine. He has earmarked $4 million in an effort of “refusal to accept any kid as a lost cause.” Constantine is calling this initiative the Roadmap to Zero Youth Detention.

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Which leads me back to my initial question, when do you give up on a child? While I’m not a parent, I have worked with thousands of kids in my life before radio. I completely understand the urge to never give up on a child. Many times, troubled kids are victims of really bad home lives, and it’s easy to connect the dots when the bad behavior starts. Other times, a family seems highly functioning from the outside looking in, and a child still goes off the rails.

Is there actually a road map to zero youth detention? What do you do with criminality, especially of the violent variety?

Constantine was asked, of course, about worse case scenarios, like murder. He held his ground and would prefer to believe that even a child who commits the most heinous act can be saved with intervention, mental health treatment, and substance abuse counseling if needed.

I think it’s an admirable goal, but I wonder how the victims and their families feel?

If your loved one is the victim of violence at the hands of a minor, isn’t a big request of the community for you to abandon detention? After several hundred years of society saying the way you pay for bad deeds is with your freedom, it’s going to be difficult for many people to just let go of that idea.

On the other hand, it’s hard to argue against the logic when you take a sober look at justice in America. We have the most incarcerated population in the world, at the highest rate of prison in the first world. Our justice system is biased towards black and brown people to a startling degree.

We have given up on generations of children and that has produced hundreds of thousands of career criminals and people with no hope of success.

From a purely logical stance, I agree with this new initiative. It seems like there’s more upside than not.

But then again, I’ve never been a victim of violence by a minor.

I’ll end where I began, is there ever a time when we should give up on a child?

“What Are We Talking About Here” can be heard every weekday at 4:50 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. on the Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.

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