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King County Enacts Changes Aimed At Cutting Down On The Number Of Juveniles Booked Into Detention

King County
Katherine Hurley, a King County public defender, proposed the warrant changes.


Last year, nearly 1,800 King County  juveniles were booked into detention. Judges and attorneys say this can have a lasting, negative impact on a child.


Now, changes are being made to the way juveniles are processed in the King County criminal justice system. The goal is to reduce the number of kids booked into detention.  


Juveniles booked into detention can be as young as 12. They’re either accused of committing a crime and are waiting to see a judge, or they’ve failed to show up for a court date and are brought in on a warrant.


The experience can be scary says King County Superior Court Judge, Susan Craighead.


“They’re surrounded by strangers," she said. "And then we tell them, take off all your clothes and be strip searched, put on this uniform, and then we take them to their living unit and there’s clanking doors, you feel like you are entering a jail or prison.”


Two tweaks are being made with the hope of reducing the number of juveniles who go through this.


One, is an on-call judge. This will prevent juveniles that come in after regular business hours from spending unnecessary time in detention.


Another change is not holding juveniles who have missed a court date. These kids are often homeless and couch surfing and never get the mailed notice. Judge Craighead said they’ll be given one more chance to show up to court.


“So we think it’s fair to find a way to just give them a new court date and just hand it to them, and try to get them to court that way, rather than force them to try to go to detention.”


King County officials expect these changes will result in 250 fewer juveniles being detained each year.

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.