Harrell signs order directing King County to find alternatives to youth incarceration

Harrell signs order directing King County to find alternatives to youth incarceration

SEATTLE — Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell, temporarily serving as Seattle’s mayor, signed an executive order Friday directing King County to find alternatives to youth incarceration.

The order, the second Harrell signed, addresses development of the $225 million King County Children and Family Justice Center, otherwise known as a “youth jail,” Harrell said.

Harrell said other leaders asked, “Mayor Harrell, you’re going there?” Harrell said he didn’t want to dodge difficult issues.

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Development of the facility is planned near 14th Avenue and East Alder in Seattle.

The order directs the creation of a task force comprised of Seattle city department and community leaders, who will be asked to “identify and define best practices in alternatives to youth detention.”

Resource opportunities also will be sought that would support redesign of the planned youth jail.

Housing options are also to be identified around King County that could provide alternatives to youth incarceration.

Harrell cited a report titled "Working to Reduce the Use of Secure Confinement," a report out of the University of Washington's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

The report states, "International and national juvenile detention centers are increasingly moving away from architectural models of large institutionalized facilities in favor of smaller normalized environments; an approach consistent with restorative justice design principles, which emphasize accountability, healing and transformation be addressed in small-scale homelike spaces that de-escalate stress by integrating elements of the natural world to create positive experiences."

Harrell announced Friday he would not continue to serve as Seattle mayor. After Harrell's announcement, speculation turned to who would succeed Harrell as the mayor of Seattle.

Despite the transition, Harrell found the issues in his executive orders to be so important the city needed to act on them now.

“This work needs to be done,” he said. “I don’t care who’s the executive. I don’t care who’s calling the shots. This work needs to get done. So whether I’m up here for one day, one week, four years. This work needs to get done. It’s more important than me … So as a person who takes action, I looked what needs to be done … the Amazon response, as an example needs to get done. The youth jail work we need to do, that needs to get done, so for me the executive orders transcend where I physically sit.”