Zero Youth Detention: New resources Map The Path, Track Progress
MAPPING THE PATH
Firmly grounded in evidence, the Road Map acknowledges that:
Restorative and community-driven strategies are effective and more likely than involvement with the criminal justice system to foster the development of happy, healthy adults.
After almost 20 years of progress in reducing juvenile detention in King County, the disparity between youth of color and white youth was larger in 2017 than in 1999.
In large part, this disparity persists due to the cumulative disadvantages of systemic racism related to housing, education, human services, and the juvenile legal system — systems that are meant to improve the lives of people in all communities.
What were the report’s key objectives and recommendations?
Lead with racial equity: Presented in the context of historic and ongoing systemic racism at every level of U.S. society, the report recommends two strategies: (a) identify and eliminate policies that result in racial disproportionality in the juvenile legal system and detention and (b) invest in training for any staff who work with youth (training covers topics such as adolescent brain development, trauma-informed services, restorative mediation, interpersonal communication, and direct supervision).
Prevent youth from entering the juvenile legal system. For the greatest impact, focus upstream and on systems. To enhance positive youth development and position youth for success, strong partnerships are needed between youth and families, schools and communities, and the County.
Divert youth from further law enforcement, formal legal processes, and secure detention into community-based options. To achieve this objective, partners in the legal system and community will need to work together to create a continuum of community-based approaches that provide for community safety and developmental needs of youth.
Support youth and families to reduce recurrence of legal system involvement and increase healthy outcomes. Outcomes are generally better when youth remain in their own communities rather than becoming involved with the juvenile legal system. When this has not been possible, however, family engagement and reentry supports are essential to fostering positive outcomes after youth have been in secure detention.
Align and optimize connections between systems to increase effectiveness. Everything works better when legal, community, social welfare, and health/mental health systems are working together.
Zero Youth Detention in Action
The Superior Court, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the King County Executive have taken steps to achieve these goals. They include:
Screen-and-release as an alternative to detention, which enables on-call juvenile judges to review cases and release low-risk youth to responsible adults during hours when court is not in session.
Expansion of “Tier 2 warrants” so police do not have to book low-risk youth into detention if they miss their first court hearing; instead, after a call to the Court’s screening unit, officers may be able to get a new court date without detention.
Calling on techniques of “restorative justice” – swift and fair accountability for harmful behavior that brings together those harmed by criminal behavior, those who caused the harm, and members of the larger community to discuss how they’ve been affected and what should be done to repair the harm.
In addition, many King County school districts are taking a less punitive approach to school discipline – something that is expected to slow the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
Launched on the final day of 2018, The Zero Youth Detention Dashboard is a public-facing tool to track progress on zero youth detention. The headline metrics for the dashboard are organized into 4 categories:
The average daily number of youth in secure detention. For youth not charged as adults, this number is down from 51 per day in 2016 to 46 per day in 2017.
Annual counts of youth in secure detention. While the total number is down, racial disparities have gotten worse.
Annual counts of referrals (alleged new crimes) or police reports received by the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. From 2016 to 2017, total referrals were down by 144 (from 3,688 to 3,544); referrals by school districts were down by 99; and referrals for low-level or misdemeanor offenses were down by 191. Changes in referral rates differed by race/ethnicity.
Annual counts of filings of charges (cases with sufficient evidence for the court to resolve) by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Total filings declined from 2014 to 2016, and plateaued in 2017; again, changes varied by race/ethnicity.
With the Dashboard now available publicly, it’s possible to look at the numbers in different ways. The public is encouraged to provide feedback by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or submission of an online form. Like the Road Map, the Dashboard is a work in progress, and public scrutiny of the data from multiple perspectives should help the county move toward the goal of Zero Youth Detention.