LOCAL NEWS

Youth jail remains controversial in King County

Feb 1, 2017, 6:33 AM | Updated: 9:17 am
Youth jail, restorative justice...
A King County youth jail proposal in Seattle has been gaining opposition. (Steven Depolo, Flicker)
(Steven Depolo, Flicker)

Calls are mounting for King County to revamp plans to build a controversial new juvenile detention facility in Seattle, commonly referred to as a youth jail, with a number of county and city officials joining the chorus.

“No matter how good a jail system you build for kids, when you put a kid in jail the outcomes are universally bad,” said King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski.

Dembowski has written an op-ed with Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell that calls for a halt to planning for the previously approved new Children and Family Justice Center in Seattle’s Central District, and a significant change in the design that de-emphasizes incarceration.

Related: ‘Block the Bunker’ blocks Seattle City Council meeting

Although King County voters overwhelmingly approved a levy in 2012 to pay for the new youth jail, Dembowski says mismanagement has led to cost overruns and an outdated approach to youth justice.

“We told the voters that it would cost between $200 and $210 million when they approved it. Before we’ve even started construction, the current estimates are $225 million. To me that meant that we should hit the pause button and take a look and see if we could do better,” Dembowski said.

Dembowski says original plans called for the new youth jail facility to house a variety of services to support troubled youth and their families along with courtrooms and detention facilities.

But he says juvenile detention levels have dropped significantly in recent years — by 55 percent under King County Executive Dow Constantine — and the new facility fails to recognize changes to juvenile rehabilitation approaches.

And the City of Seattle declined a permit for a larger building, which would force the county to split the services that were supposed to be housed all under one roof between the new facility and the King County Courthouse.

“We’re talking about a shrunk down courthouse that won’t deliver on the promises and the needs of children and families in crisis. And I think that’s where we need to make a better investment and have a better project with a redesigned program,” Dembowski said.

Controversial youth jail

The project has been a focal point of vocal protesters who have repeatedly taken to the streets and shouted down council meetings in opposition

They surrounded Mayor Ed Murray’s house recently, even though he has no say on the project.

Murray has sent a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine and the county’s top judge, joining the call to revamp the project, The Seattle Times reported.

Constantine is more than willing to take a new look at the facility even though he’s been a driving force in the project.

“I want the county to embrace this opportunity, building on our success to set a shared goal of zero detention of youth,” Constantine said.

But he says that’s not something that can happen overnight, and calls by critics to scrap the project altogether are unrealistic.

“So we also need to make sure when youth are detained, we are detaining them in a way that is beneficial to them, that is therapeutic, that gives them help with whatever problem brought them in,” Constantine said.

And he argues the current facility is woefully inadequate to handle that, especially when it comes to dealing with the most violent youth offenders.

Dembowski suggests one big focus can be reducing the number of jail cells and beds. Although Constantine and other supporters of the new facility back an entirely new jail, the councilmember says the old juvenile facility is more than adequate to handle detention needs — and save taxpayers millions at the same time.

“The detention facility up there — and this sometimes gets overlooked — was built in 1992. It is a functioning, serviceable, usable facility that can meet our needs. It does today,” Dembowski said. “It may need a little updating but I do believe there’s a path other than replacing the detention facility with brand new money and $112 new jail beds.”

Opponents have appealed the current permit, delaying any formal action for months. Ultimately, it’ll be up to the King County Council to decide what to do.

Local News

Troyer, Pierce County...
Nicole Jennings

Trial date for Pierce County Sheriff Troyer set for July 2022

Just as a trial date has been set for Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer, his department is facing challenges in recruiting new officers.
1 day ago
shooting, shootings, gun violence...
Stephanie Klein

Report confirms uptick in shootings across King County, Seattle

King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office released an updated report on gun violence data after a rash of shootings.
1 day ago
Chappelle...
Stephanie Klein

Dave Chappelle coming to Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena

Comedian Dave Chappelle is coming to Climate Pledge Arena for a show on New Year's Eve.
1 day ago
Jay Inslee, reopen, vaccine requirements, long term care tax...
Nick Bowman

Gov. Inslee: ‘May be possible’ to delay long-term care tax while lawmakers work through issues

Gov. Jay Inslee says that he is working with state lawmakers to discuss the possibility of postponing a long-term care tax taking effect in 2022.
1 day ago
(Getty image)...
Stephanie Klein

Seattle police investigating 5 shootings overnight

Seattle police are investigating five shootings in the past 24-hour period. Two people were injured.
1 day ago
Republicans, redistricting...
Nick Bowman

State Supreme Court allows late-arriving redistricting maps to move forward

The state Supreme Court n will allow new legislative and congressional maps submitted late by the state's redistricting commission to move forward. 
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
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, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Youth jail remains controversial in King County