KIRO NEWSRADIO

King County’s plan to close youth detention center met with fierce backlash

Mar 27, 2024, 6:43 PM | Updated: Mar 29, 2024, 5:59 am

Photo: The Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center....

The Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center. (Photo courtesy of King County)

(Photo courtesy of King County)

The King County Council’s Law and Justice Committee received a final report on King County Executive Dow Constantine’s controversial plan to close the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center, a youth detention center.

Constantine calls it Care and Closure. The plan is to move away from secure detention and toward community-based Respite and Receiving Houses. However, those houses may or may not be secured with locked doors.

Detractors claimed it’s a bad idea.

Ursula: King County needs to drop its plan to close youth jail

Councilmember Dunn speaks against the decision to close justice center

“The fact that the county is still considering placing violent felons in unlocked facilities is preposterous and a glaring danger to our communities. We must work to improve juvenile justice while still holding younger offenders accountable for their actions and without creating more victims out of innocent people,” King County Council member Reagan Dunn said.

Constantine and his supporters said secure detention harms young offenders.

“Incarcerating youth harms them. It makes them more likely to re-offend,” Katie Hurley, Special Counsel in criminal policy and practice with the King County Department of Public Defense, said. “It damages their long-term prospects and it makes our entire community less safe.”

The initial plan was to close the center by sometime next year. That timeline has been pushed to 2028, but the rest of the plan remains the same.

The committee voted 3-1 to acknowledge receipt of the report but no other action was taken. Dunn voted against acknowledging the report.

“We do need a location to hold juveniles that pose a danger to others and the juvenile justice center we just built is that place,” Dunn said. “We can always improve it, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.”

More from James Lynch: Family and friends gather to remember loved ones lost in Renton crash

Constantine releases statement on plan for justice center

County Executive Dow Constantine did not attend the committee meeting but released a statement.

“We must continue to move with urgency and determination to ensure better outcomes for our young people and to step closer to true public safety. Our current system does not produce positive outcomes or deter young people from causing harm. Our young people, families, and communities need and deserve better,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a written statement via email.

You can read more of James Lynch’s stories here. Follow James on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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King County’s plan to close youth detention center met with fierce backlash