Seattle also resolves to end youth detention

The passage of a surprise resolution on rent control may have stole the headlines following Monday’s City Council meeting, but the passage of another resolution concerning juvenile detention was no less deserving.

City Council members unanimously endorsed a call to cease the practice of youth detention in Seattle — eventually. Sponsored by Council member Mike O’Brien, the resolution was introduced as a result of the debate over replacing the crumbling Youth Detention Center at 12th and Alder.

The resolution also directs the City’s Criminal Justice Equity Team to develop a plan by next September to identify steps the City can take towards ending youth detention.

Resolutions are not binding law, they only state the intent or opinion of the Council. O’Brien acknowledged Monday that the passing it would be meaningless without actually working to reduce youth detention rates, particularly for children of color.

“With the help of local social justice and anti-racist groups — and the start of our City’s budget discussions now underway — Seattle can now advance a comprehensive strategy aimed at keeping kids out of jail,” O’Brien said.

The juvenile justice system is administered by King County, which has already pledged to work towards ending youth incarceration.

The latest chapter in the debate over youth detention in Seattle was stirred up when King County began moving forward with plans to replace its Central Area youth jail. The King County Council unanimously approved an ordinance to build the new facility during a lengthy, heated meeting in February. In 2012, 55% of voters approved a $210 million levy to build the new 144-bed facility. The existing center has 210 beds. Detention data shows the current center is typically less than half full.

Last year, City Council members passed a land use bill that gave the County the ability to build the Children and Family Justice Center (City Council member Kshama Sawant cast the lone opposing vote). The bill also called for a racial impact study of building the new facility.

The primary finding of that report was clear: the best way to end racial disparities in youth detention is to end youth detention altogether.

Black youth in King County are roughly six times more likely than white youth to face a judge in juvenile court. And while the number of youth referred to juvenile court has been falling for years, the bulk of that benefit has gone to whites. Last year, there were 467 admissions to youth detention for probation violations — 42% of those were for black youths.

In March, King County judges pledged to lock up fewer youths for minor offenses and elected officials promised to bolster diversion programs as part of a plan to address inherent racism in the county’s juvenile justice system.

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10 thoughts on “Seattle also resolves to end youth detention

  1. I support the effort to reduce youth detention and to handle less serious cases without incarceration. However, to try and “end” detention is not realistic….there are some really bad youth out there, and at times the only appropriate place for them is in jail.

  2. Adult crimes, adult times. I had my moment of detention (jail) when I was a youth and it served me well. A month away taught me that I preferred being free. I think the issue is that many have the opportunity to learn bad things from their mates on the inside. Additional management and focus on rehabilitation and not placing low level offenders with more dangerous kids is key.

    Lack of consequences at home has caused the numbers to go up. Lack of consequences from the community will result in even worse results.

    Alternatively, public flogging/shaming could really cause a change in behavior.

  3. I’ve worked as a counselor in juvenile institutions for many years. Many of these youth are products of their environment not products of their incarceration. I agree that many minor offenses can be relegated to alternative options, diversion, Substance abuse counseling, community service, etc. However the biggest issue is that many of the communities the juveniles come from don’t promote or have enough programs to help at-risk youth. Furthermore, some communities even encourage criminal behavior or gang affiliation as part of family traditions or community pride. To think that this will stop by keeping those kids within these communities is grossly negligent. Separating these youth and having them experience different environments where not everyone is associated with a gang or commits crimes to make ends meet would be a better solution. Most don’t even realize their are other career or educational options available. There won’t be any alternative justice for those committing violent crimes or sex crimes as the community won’t want allow them to be kept around to reoffend or add more victims. Lastly, I think the increase in advocacy for non-discrimination in juvenile justice creates a negative environment for those victimized by these youth. I suspect that most of the victims of crimes by African American youth are also African American, so then are we telling African American victims we care less about them receiving justice? With the youth not being removed victims will unfairly have more unintentional interactions, meetings or run-ins with their perpetrators. Why is it our justice systems and its advocates seem to care more about those choosing to commit crimes than those victimized against their will?

    • Coming from someone who is very experienced in juvenile rehabilitation, your comments carry alot of weight. It sounds like you advocate a “tough love” approach, along with more concern for victims…and I couldn’t agree more.

  4. Diversion and options yes. But unrealistic to call to eliminate it. If you actually look at the list of offenses that result in a juvenile being detained there many are serious and violent offenses. Even members of minority communities do not want someone to be released with milk and cookies if they beat the crap out of someone’s grandma to steal her purse at the bus stop. Be real.

  5. This is very unrealistic and naïve. Of course diversion is a good goal for minor crimes like shoplifting or possession of small quantities of drugs; however, there are a lot of very violent juveniles. Almost anyone who lives in the CD knows of minors who are in gangs and carrying guns. If these minors get caught with a gun, committing armed robbery, assaulting someone, or dealing large quantities of narcotics, releasing them back into their homes is not appropriate and is dangerous to the public. I wonder if any of our city council members have spent any real or meaningful time in the CD or other high crime areas like the Rainier Valley. I’m not talking about just showing up at a visibility event but about day to day living in these areas. They have no idea of what is happening right in the open every day.

  6. THE NEW PROGRESSIVE ENERGY COMING TO THE SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL IS ALREADY BEING FELT??? WITH GODDEN GONE AND TIM “ANGEL POLICEMEN” BURGESS GOING….GOING…..GOING……HOPEFULLY GONE, SEATTLE CITIZENS HAVE BEGUN THE TASK OF DISMANTLING THE ORGANIZED CRIME RICO-RACKETEERING-GANGSTERS / BANKSTERS THAT REALLY RUNS “LIBERAL”, ANTI-BLACK (ESPECIALLY BLACK BUSINESSES) GENTRIFICATION SEATTLE???

    AFRICATOWN / CENTRAL AREA HAS BEEN AND IS HERE TO STAY. WE JUST NEED TO ASK THE DUWAMISH NATIVEAMERICANS FOR THEIR PERMISSION??? WHOSE LAND??? THEIR LAND!!! WHOSE COUNTRY??? “INDIAN COUNTRY???

    HISTORY DOES NOT LIE, ONLY THOSE WHO WRITE IT??? THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES, Omari Tahir-Garrett, VIETNAM VETERAN (1967), WORLD TRAVELER,(AFRICA, ASIA, EUROPE NORTH AMERICA), HISTORY / ANTI-COLONIAL SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER (FRANKLIN, GARFIELD, IMMACULATE ALL GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL) AND CANDIDATE FOR SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL (2018)

    WEBSITE: OmariForCityCouncil
    WEBSITE; AFRICATOWN / CHINATOWN NEWS DIGEST
    WEBSITE: prison2president