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King county voters will decide whether to replace juvenile detention facility

Paula Wissel

King County Proposition 1 would replace what’s called the Youth Services Center at 12th Avenue and East Alder Street with a brand new facility.  The current buildings sit on 9 acres of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood near Seattle University. The proposal includes selling off 3 corners of the property to developers.The 40 year old facilities are rundown and have had problems with rusty pipes and the like. But proponents say simply sprucing it up won't fix the underlying design issues.

For example, the courtroom space is arranged so that everyone is in a single lobby. 

Keep in mind it’s not just children in trouble who end up in court. Judges are also deciding, for example, if a child will be removed from a home.

Tricia McCardle, with the Attorney General’s office , handles such cases.

"There’s too many people for too small a space and no place for private conversations. And in child abuse and neglect cases we need that," she said.

As for the detention facility, Juvenile Court Judge Michael Trickey  points ou that the new facility would be designed to keep certain groups away from each other.

“Because we have kids, unfortunately, from rival gangs in the detention facility at the same time and they have to be separated,” he said.

The new $210 million facility would cost the average homeowner about $25 a year for 9 years.

Opposition comes mainly from judicial reform advocates who say, rather than replace worn out buildings, the county should be looking at fixing problems within the juvenile justice system itself, such as looking at more alternatives to locking kids up. 

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.