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New youth detention center to open in King County

A new youth detention center opens later this month in King County. Although activists opposed to a youth jail protested and fought it in court, construction went forward on what is now the Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center. In 2012, voters approved a $210 million levy to build the facility as a replacement for the current juvenile justice center.

King County Chief Juvenile Court Judge Judith Ramseyer beamed with pride as she pointed out the amenities in the new building, such as courtrooms designed to be less intimidating and walls filled with art and murals. She said it’s a huge improvement over the dark and outdated former building.


Even though the county has pledged to reach zero detention of youth in the future, Ramseyer said building a new detention space is still necessary.


“We’re not going to get to zero detention immediately and there are unfortunately young people who are dangerous or are really in crisis and need to be stabilized before we can find a safe space to put them in the community,” she said.


She said the new facility actually has fewer jail beds than the old space and is designed in a way that can be repurposed. Ramseyer said it's important to remember that the role of the new juvenile justice center is more than detaining youth. She said, for example, there are services for youth who have been abused or neglected and there's a family treatment court. The new justice center also has space for outside service providers to work.


Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 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.