King County Executive to phase out youth detention, King County Jail

Jul 21, 2020, 5:12 PM | Updated: Jul 22, 2020, 4:28 pm
King County Executive Dow Constantine, coronavirus, youth detention...
King County Executive Dow Constantine and other state leaders speak to the press on March 28, 2020 in Seattle. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Wednesday that he is committed to converting the remaining youth detention units at the Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC) to other uses, no later than 2025.

Constantine tweeted that he plans to propose additional investments to create community-based solutions that better address the needs of youth and families in King County. He added that the CFJC was built as part of a goal for a safer, more restorative alternative for youth.

“Phasing out centralized youth detention is no longer a goal in the far distance,” Constantine tweeted. “We have made extraordinary progress and we have evolved to believe that even more can be done.”

Constantine is also expected to propose a phased closing of the adult King County Correctional Facility in favor of “diversion, prevention, rehabilitation, and harm reduction programs,” according to a memo from the director of the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention.

The executive is expected to make a full announcement in his upcoming State of the County address, the date of which is yet to be determined.

Constantine did hold a brief conference Thursday to discuss his proposals, saying that it’s time to rethink old ways of doing business. Any alternative for detention would aim to be “less traumatic, more restorative, better for public safety, and a better use of public money,” Constantine said.

He said $3 out of every $4 in the King County general fund is spent on courts, crime, and corrections. While there has been a lot of talk about defunding the police, Constantine pointed out that we’re continuing to pay into a criminal justice and legal system when those funds could be better used to improve human services and public health, as examples.

Additionally, Constantine says the King County Corrections Facility is decrepit and expensive to operate.

“Every day we pay the price for its outdated design,” he said, recognizing that at some point, the old jail must come down.

The phased closure of the jail does not mean that there will be no detention for violent criminals, but Constantine says we need to get to the root of the problem. For those who do need to be detained, there needs to be a detention system that helps them be less likely to commit crimes, not more likely, Constantine said, and helps them get back on track. Constantine is proposing we direct our energy into breaking the cycle, which will make the community safer as a result.

He also says working toward zero youth detention and alternative solutions needs to be a community conversation.

“No one gets to be the one voice to define what will work for the community,” he said.

The number of adults and youth in local detention centers was previously reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficulty of ensuring everyone could follow proper social distancing measures, have access to adequate protective equipment, and have the ability to contain any potential outbreak.

King County judges aim to set record straight on youth detention center

The memo states, and Constantine also clarified Thursday, that any phased closure of the jail is not expected to take place until after the pandemic is under control.

Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County has been fighting against the new youth jail since it was first announced, the group said in a statement Wednesday. Earlier this month, BLMSKC issued a written set of demands to Constantine and local leaders that included ending youth incarceration in King County by the end of 2025.

“We do not serve our children, especially Black, Indigenous, and other children of color, by focusing our energy and resources on them serving time,” said Livio De La Cruz, board member with BLMSKC. “We want a system that supports youth and helps them lead healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives. Their lives matter. Ending youth incarceration is the right thing to do for our children, their families, and all of us.”

Local News

Nurses admit a patient transferred from the ICU COVID unit to the acute care COVID unit at Harborvi...
Nicole Jennings

Legislature debates WA hospital staffing ratios as healthcare labor problem steeps

Hospital administrators and health workers are divided over a bill that would mandate staffing ratios in different hospital departments.
1 day ago
homes, single family zoning, moving company, Puget Sound housing...
Nick Bowman

Puget Sound housing market hits record numbers as prices continue to soar

Despite historically low inventory, the Puget Sound region housing market set records in 2021, as prices continued skyward.
1 day ago
MyNorthwest Staff

‘Right to repair’ bill would give Washington state consumers control over electronics repair

Washington state’s Legislature is considering a consumer protection bill intended to make it easier to repair personal electronics.
1 day ago
Nick Bowman

State lawmakers take up abortion debate amid uncertain future for Roe v. Wade

The national debate surrounding abortion and reproductive rights is also taking place in Washington during 2022's legislative session.
1 day ago
downtown shooting...
KIRO Newsradio staff

Open investigation after downtown Seattle shooting sends one to hospital

A 31-year-old man was transported to Harborview Medical Center on Wednesday after a shooting in downtown Seattle.
1 day ago
COVID Washington two years...
Nick Bowman

2 years after Washington identified nation’s first COVID case, future of pandemic remains unclear

As of this week, it's now been exactly two years since the first case COVID-19 cases was identified in both Washington and the United States. 
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
King County Executive to phase out youth detention, King County Jail