Image of one teen smiling and looking at the camera; the words: Care and closure with the subtitle of a plan for youth healing, accountability, and community safety.

All young people in King County deserve to thrive and reach their full potential. Yet far too many young people face a criminal legal system that is harmful, punitive, and overwhelmingly targets communities that are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). King County is working to reduce harm and support young people in their communities.

As a centerpiece of our efforts, King County Executive Constantine has pledged to expand community-based alternatives to secure youth detention that support youth healing, accountability, and community safety and close the secure youth detention facility in King County. An Advisory Committee made up of community members and other stakeholders guides and shapes this work. Throughout this next year, the Advisory Committee and county staff is listening and learning from impacted young people and their families, identifying opportunities to support community-based alternatives, and leading with racial equity. It will then recommend how the county can close the detention facility and repurpose the space to meet other community-identified needs.  

King County is committed to closing the detention center to address racial disproportionality and reduce harm in the youth legal system. The county took this course to close the detention facility after hearing calls from community leaders. In July 2020, the King County Executive declared racism as a public health crisis and prioritized efforts in the criminal legal system. That followed the 2018 launch of King County’s Zero Youth Detention initiative to create a more equitable legal system for young people. The initiative identified several strategies, which the county is pursuing:

  • Lead with racial equity;

  • Prevent youth from entering into the juvenile legal system;  

  • Divert young people to community-based options;

  • Support young people and their families to reduce the recurrence of legal system involvement; and 

  • Align and optimize connections between system to increase effectiveness. 

Black youth and other youth of color are overrepresented in detention. Black youth, for example, represented 10% of youth in King County but accounted for 51% of the young people in secure detention in 2021. In comparison, white youth made up nearly half of youth in King County but accounted for only 17% of the young people in secure detention that same year. 

As shown in the figures below, these disparities are getting worse, despite successful efforts to reduce the number of young people in detention. Between 2010 and 2022, the number of young people in secure detention declined by 63%. In 2022, the average number of young people in detention was 33 young people, down from 89 in 2010.


We can build something better, together. We think a more just and accountable alternative can support young people who would otherwise be in detention.

The reimagination of youth justice is not simply about closing a physical detention space. It's about expanding a holistic range of community-based alternatives to meet the needs of our young people without removing them from their families and communities.

It's about upholding community safety, especially in communities most affected by violence. It's about moving forward anti-racist and pro-equity policies. 

In the end, closing the detention facility and reducing harm in the youth legal system promises to support a path to greater public safety and accountability for all King County communities. It will build on other county efforts, such as Best Starts for Kids and Restorative Community Pathways, to promote community safety and well-being for all our young people.  

Ultimately, ending secure youth detention in King County will take all of us working together to get the very best outcomes for our young people.

Ready to get started? Click on the tabs above to take a short survey, learn about the Advisory Committee, and see what we are learning.

Join the Advisory Committee meetings

Our next meeting is on Monday, March 27 from 4 pm to 5:30 pm. You can find the agenda and meeting information here. Please check out the "Advisory Committee" tab to learn more about the meeting and find notes, agendas, and slides from previous meetings.

Learn more about the project

Check out a summary document of the project. 

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Share your input on what's needed to better support young people

Take a short survey (click here). 

Learn about the project timeline

This project will take place in five key phases:

Phase 1: Project Roll-Out

January - June 2022

Phase 2: Community Listening & Learning

July - December 2022

Phase 3: Community Strategy Development

January - December 2023

Phase 4: Strategy Implementation

January - December 2024

Phase 5: Transition to Closure

January - December 2025 

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If you have comments or questions about the strategic planning project to close the secure youth detention facility by 2025, please contact: 

Emily Johnson, Project Manager 

Phone: 855-925-2801; project code: 9948

Email: [email protected]