King County is moving ahead with its downscaled but still more than $200 million project to build a new juvenile legal and detention center at the site of the current facility at 12th and Alder even as it makes the case that it is moving away from traditional “youth jail” justice. Thursday night, the League of Women’s Voters will convene a panel for a public discussion on the “zero detention” movement:
In mid-March, CHS reported on the county’s efforts to show its changing approach to juvenile crime and justice as the new facility moves toward construction. According to officials, the current 12th and Alder facility held an average daily population in 2016 of 51 juveniles, down 16% from 2015, and an even steeper drop from 1998 when the facility routinely held more than 150 people. Meanwhile, another 17-20 juveniles on average are held in the adult facility in Kent, owing to regulations surrounding their age and the crimes involved.
The new facility is slated to go on the same campus as the existing juvenile justice center along 12th Ave about a block south of the Seattle University campus. King County has been looking to replace the courthouse and administrative buildings for years, and is building a new jail along with them. The recession of 2008 held up plans for the expensive project, but in 2012, the county put a roughly $210 million levy before voters which passed by a 55-45 margin. The existing detention center has 212 beds. The new one could have up to 144, though County Executive Dow Constantine said he’d like it to hold to no more than 112.