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‘Prevention, diversion, rehabilitation, and harm reduction’ — As memo on King County Jail leaks, Constantine says 12th Ave youth detention facility to be converted to ‘other purposes’ by 2025

CHS toured the new $200M+ Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center in February

A target at the core of the Black Lives Matter movement in Seattle, incarceration at the  new $200 million-plus youth jail facility at 12th and Alder will be phased out by 2025, King County Executive Dow Constantine said Tuesday. The announcement comes as an internal memo has leaked outlining the move as part of a larger initiative around reducing incarceration and increasing intervention and diversion opportunities.

“Today I commit King County to converting the remaining youth detention units at the CFJC to other uses as quickly as possible, and no later than 2025,” Constantine said in a series of updates on social media.

“I will also be proposing additional investments to help create healthy and community-based solutions that address the needs of youth & families in King County,” Constantine said.

During the COVID-19 crisis, officials have announced efforts to reduce the number of adults and juvenile held in detention facilities.

A letter to staff from John Diaz, director of the King County Jail and a former chief of police in Seattle, outlined the new Constantine initiatives including a phased closing of the county’s 34-year-old Seattle jail facility on 5th Ave.


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“To decrease our reliance on secure detention, the Executive intends to support programs for prevention, diversion, rehabilitation, and harm reduction,” Diaz writes. “As the County seeks out new models for public safety, your department leaders will continue to support orderly and secure operations.”

“We hope to have more details on the plans for KCCF after the Executive prepares the budget later this year,” Diaz writes.

The county also operates the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

The announcement comes after weeks of Black Lives Matter protests in Seattle and the region that have sparked terrible clashes between demonstrators and police utilizing military-style crowd control tactics as well as drawn increased federal attention and resource.

It also comes only five months after officials unveiled its new Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center replacing what Constantine called “an old, decrepit, 212-bed building that was unsafe & inhumane” at 12th and Alder. At the time of the February unveiling of the new facility, officials emphasized the planned flexibility of the justice center and its 16-dorm living halls, new classrooms, and expanded visitation areas where youth offenders can meet with family and lawyers. “As we move toward zero youth detention, how we can repurpose space?,” one official said in February. “As our population decreases, we can move our secure perimeter.”

By 2025, under Constantine’s new initiative, that secure perimeter will be gone.

February’s opening came after years of opposition to the project and criticism that the county’s approach was outdated and out of step with changing approaches to juvenile justice and incarceration. In 2019, the “average daily population” of juveniles held in secure or standard detention, on electronic home detention, or in group care was 43.

In a social media update including the text of a letter sent by King County Jail director Diaz outlining the Constantine announcement, No Youth Jail activist Nikkita Oliver exclaimed, “This is everything we’ve been saying!”

“Movements work! AND we can close this down now,” Oliver writes. “Let’s shorten this 5 year timeline. #NoNewYouthJail #WeAreWinning A new world is possible! Now let’s #DefundSPD.”

Diaz’s letter includes this summary of the road ahead for the youth justice facility:

Executive Constantine remains focused on achieving Zero Youth Detention. The number of youths in secure detention has been reduced by half since mid-March, reaching 21 this week. As the need for secure detention goes away, more space in the Clark Children and Family Justice Center can be devoted to community programs. The goal is to convert all remaining detention capacity no later than 2025.

It’s not clear what drove Constantine’s announcement on a new course for the county and the 12th AVe facility.

As the fight over construction of the facility played out, Constantine maintained he was leading necessary change to address issues of race and equity in the youth justice system. CHS reported here on the county’s efforts to show its changing approach to juvenile crime and justice. In 2016, the proportion of Black youth in jail decline from 58.5% to 49.9%, county officials said. According to U.S. Census figures, about 7% of the county population is Black and another 5% identified as multiracial.

Constantine has served as the executive for 11 years and faces reelection next year.

Meanwhile, the 12th and Alder facility’s construction is still not complete and will require a few more years to finish. The next phases will bring construction of a new school and parking garage, and creating the Alder Connection with “associated outdoor public art, landscaping, and amenities.”


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Whichever
Whichever
8 months ago

Then why the hell did we build and pay for it? Use it for the original purpose – otherwise it’s a waste of taxpayer money.

bucephalus
bucephalus
8 months ago
Reply to  Whichever

fine, let them put your kids in it.

Whichever
Whichever
8 months ago
Reply to  bucephalus

If they screwed up bad enough to deserve – then they deserve it.

DS
DS
8 months ago
Reply to  bucephalus

One could argue that had the Tuba Man killers actually stayed in custody for 5 years or so, and received intensive therapy, it’s less likely they and their subsequent victims would be dead right now, the remaining one in prison.

Brian Aker
Brian Aker
8 months ago
Reply to  Whichever

Why did we build it?
Because otherwise we take children who are to be detained and push them into the adult prison population.
Why did we originally push to have police officers into high schools?
Because school safety officers routinely violate the rights of children.

Jordan
Jordan
8 months ago
Reply to  Whichever

It would cost more money to use the facility regardless of it being built than to repurpose it. 26 people in a nearly 200 room facility is t really very effective. Crime has been going down significantly in the last ten years, no need to invest in more jail cells for children. For the very few if any of the folks that are there who are truly violent, there are location options for them outside of adult. But, it’ll save money not to use it.

DS
DS
8 months ago

DOJ, not Dow, has control over a great many of these details. More political posturing in the run up to his 2021 campaign.

CityOfVagrants
CityOfVagrants
8 months ago

So what exactly do we do with Timmy the 16 year old rapist? Adult jail? Some other facility?

RWK
RWK
8 months ago
Reply to  CityOfVagrants

Exactly! The goal of reducing youth incarceration is a noble one, but there will always be a need for youth jails for violent offenders, and especially those with zero remorse for their crimes. Teenagers understand the concept of crime and accountability….those that choose to commit crimes are not innocent victims.

If you place youth offenders in adult jails, that is just asking for more trouble, because they will “learn the ropes” from adult criminals.

I’m going to have to think about not voting for Dow Constantine next time.

DS
DS
8 months ago
Reply to  RWK

Not just that. They’ll be monitored by corrections officers who are trained and geared toward adult offenders. It’s a much more harsh approach and training. Truly a frightening idea.

candrew
candrew
8 months ago
Reply to  CityOfVagrants

Adult jail I guess. Sucks being Timmy.

EJ
EJ
8 months ago

In a short period of time Seattle started: the destruction of their police department, the chasing of Amazon and other businesses out of town, and repurposing a juvenile jail they just spent millions of dollars on.

And systemic racism . . . . . won’t get any better because of any of these decisions. In fact, these decisions are so horrifyingly horrible that institutional racism seems like a better option. How is that possible?

candrew
candrew
8 months ago
Reply to  EJ

I think the only way to achieve affordable housing is to chase all of the productive people out of Seattle. Crazy? Sure it’s crazy. But it just might be crazy enough to work.

Travis
Travis
8 months ago

Systemic child abuse and neglect by their own parents. Is there going to be a bad parent program? Kids get all the blame. Oh wait. The tax payers will be the parents. I guess we will all have kids whether we want them or not, we’ll definitely get the bill for them.

Clint
Clint
8 months ago

With a huge budget shortfall on the way and a severe reduction in property values, the cost savings of this social experiment may cause a free fall. Or… magically everything turns to gold when this is all said and done. LOL

Jim98122x
Jim98122x
8 months ago
Reply to  Clint

You make the incorrect assumption that a lowering of property values will lead to lower property taxes. Nope. All they do is float another special levy that’s added to property taxes. In case you haven’t noticed, it happens 3 times a yr on EVERY ballot, and they all pass. Renters vote yes on everything because they don’t think they’ll see it. The city and county’s expenses don’t drop just because property values fall. They just raise the rate they base it on for the lower property values, so they still net out the same money. Without the budgets cut drastically, taxes won’t go down. And seattle voters pass every levy.

Brenda
Brenda
8 months ago

There’s always a lack of specifics in these plans; what exactly are these programs? and why exactly do they think they’ll work?

DS
DS
8 months ago
Reply to  Brenda

When the mayor finally pushed for an accounting of several programs that had long received tax dollars the city council pushed back like mad (2018 and 2019 budget cycles). I don’t think she ever got that accounting. Meanwhile the grand experiment that is LEAD gets many millions from both city and county, and has yet to produce the stats promised with the money (city council also pushed back when the mayor wanted to withhold 3.5 million 2019 dollars until she saw some stats). And those stats that were produced several years ago fudge the numbers by redefining things like oh, assault, as nonviolent offenses. Watch for more redefining language, Orwellian doublspeak and meaningless woke-speak in all of our futures.