• King County Public Health to oversee juvenile detention reorganization

    By: John Knicely


    With the backing of every major player from the Prosecutors office to Seattle Police, on Thursday King County Executive Dow Constantine unveiled the idea of the Public Health Department overseeing the reorganization of juvenile detention.

    Public Health Director Patty Hayes will lead the team to have a proposal by March 15th.  She just secured a grant that will go through the process.

    “I'm excited because we're at a moment that we can grab,” Hayes said.  “And everybody's ready to grab it together.”

    They will work with organizations like Community Pathways and its founder, Dominique Davis.  In January of this year, he started working with juveniles charged with felonies.  One way they break through is to have people who've committed similar crimes meet with the kids.  

    “Sit down with those young people, explain what they've been through,” Davis said.  “Let those young people discover, man this is trauma. I've really dealt with trauma. I didn't know that's what it was. It was my every day existence.”

    Davis told KIRO 7 he and his team this year have diverted 13 felony youth charges to either misdemeanors or tossed out altogether.

    “While they're doing this work with me, I'm able to write a narrative,” Davis said.  “They've been speaking in high schools, speaking to their peers telling the mistakes they've made.  “And I take that narrative and give it to the defense attorney and say, 'Here, give that to the prosecutor.'"

    Currently the Department of Juvenile Detention operates the Youth Services Center. King County Public Health will take over under this plan.  But the 131 current staff will remain consistent.  

    Ninety-eight percent of them have college degrees and extensive training.

    The plan won't change the justice system.  Judges will still decide sentences, but more work will be done to prevent repeat offenses.

    “Whether they're there briefly or whether they're there a long time, we want that experience not to be more traumatizing,” Constantine said.  “Cause them to have a greater problem in their future life, but to use that opportunity to reduce the trauma.”


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