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Why does King County need to build the Children and Family Justice Center?

The detention and courthouse facilities at the Youth Services Center are in need of more than $40 million in repairs and core system replacements just to remain safe and functional. In the meantime, problems with aging roofs, windows, pipes and drainage systems are being patched with inefficient, short-term fixes that are only growing more expensive to address over time. Brown water comes out of the facility's faucets. After estimating the costs of a full renovation, the King County Executive, Superior Court and County Council decided that it was time to replace the center altogether. In 2012, King County voters agreed when they passed a $210 million levy for its replacement.

When is construction scheduled to begin and when will the building open?

Construction at 12th Avenue and Alder Street in Seattle's Central District will begin by mid-2017. The new center is scheduled to open in 2020. Check our Design and Construction page for future updates or sign up for updates by sending your email address to ChildrenAndFamilyJustice@kingcounty.gov.

How much will the new center cost?

The project is estimated to cost $210 million. It will be funded through property taxes, approved by voters in 2012, that will cost the median homeowner an extra $25 a year (about 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for nine years).

Would renovating the current Youth Services Center cost less than building a new center?

No. Required core system replacements alone would cost at least $40 million. A cost analysis showed that a renovation of both detention and courthouse facilities would cost more than building a new center on a reconfigured site. A renovation would also provide less ideal spaces for the current needs of staff and visitors of the Youth Services Center.

Can levy funds be spent on other projects or programs?

No, the funds raised through the property tax levy for the Children and Family Justice Center can only be spent on capital costs related to designing, building, and equipping the new center, as described in the 2012 ballot measure.

What is the size of the new center?

The site will include:

  • Courthouse: 137,000 square feet with ten courtrooms, an increase of three courtrooms and 40,000 square feet.
  • Juvenile Detention: 81,800 square feet with 112 detention beds, a reduction of 100 detention beds. Design allows for flexibility to reduce detention space in the future.
  • Youth Program Space: 10,200 square feet initially part of detention has been converted to non-detention youth program space because of reductions in the juvenile detention population.
  • Parking Garage: The 360-stall structure's top floor will be at ground level on its north side and two floors above ground on its south side.
  • Public Open Areas: 1.55 acres of the site will be open area. That includes the Alder Connection - a pedestrian and bicycle pathway that will reconnect East Alder Street between 12th and 14th Avenues after a 50-year closure - space on the corner of East Remington Court and 14th Avenue that allows for integration with the City of Seattle's planned woonerf, and public plaza space facing 12th Avenue.

Will the current Youth Services Center building continue standing when the new center opens?

No. Once the new center is built, the old facilities at the Youth Services Center will be demolished to make space for the new parking garage.

Will there be public open areas on the Children and Family Justice Center site when it is finished?

Yes, 1.55 acres of the site will be open areas that include:

  • The Alder Connection, a pedestrian and bicycle pathway that will reconnect East Alder Street between 12th and 14th Avenues after a 50-year closure
  • Space on the corner of East Remington Court and 14th Avenue
  • Public plaza space facing 12th Avenue

Why does the juvenile detention building need to be replaced?

The detention and courthouse facilities at the Youth Services Center are in need of more than $40 million in repairs and core system replacements just to remain safe and functional. In the meantime, problems with aging roofs, windows, pipes and drainage systems are being patched with inefficient, short-term fixes that are only growing more expensive to address over time. After a cost analysis reviewed in 2012, King County determined that building a new facility with fewer beds would be cheaper in the long term than renovating the existing facilities.

Will this facility be more accommodating to youth struggling with traumatic experiences and/or mental health issues?

Replacing juvenile detention presents an opportunity to use modern research to rethink and redesign the space to better aid youth in crisis. The programming space and interior design of the new facility takes into account that many of the youth entering these spaces may have experienced trauma and/or are struggling with mental health problems. The facility is being designed to feel less punitive and more therapeutic.

Today, for example, many counseling and creative workshop sessions are held in empty detention bed halls, which is far from an ideal program space. The new facility will have unique and more calming program spaces dedicated to counseling and learning activities. The facility will also dedicate space to a spiritual center room, which the current facility does not have. 

How much of the $210 million project will be spent on detention facilities?

About $45 million of the $210 million Children and Family Justice Center project - just under 20 percent of the project's budget - is estimated to be spent on the detention portion of the new center.

How many detention beds will be in the facility?

King County Executive Dow Constantine capped the number of detention beds at the new facility at 112 - almost cutting in half the number of beds available today (212 beds). The extra beds allow for the safe placement of youth of different sexes, gang affiliations and levels of offenses into separate halls. It also accommodates seasonal fluctuations in the detention population. The maximum practical capacity will be around 80 youth, which means going above that number diminishes a cushion left in place to prevent overcrowding.

Will the detention facility be flexibly designed to allow for a reduction in detention space in the future?

Yes. In fact, the number of detention beds planned for the Children and Family Justice Center has already been decreased from 144 down to 112. As a result, two halls have been converted to 10,200 square feet of non-detention youth program space. This space has its own entrance facing bike and pedestrian paths on the planned Alder Connection. Similar hall conversions may happen in the future if the juvenile detention population continues to decrease, as it has for more than a decade. In March 2015, King County Superior Court committed to cutting the use of detention for probation violators in half by April 2016. Juvenile Court is continuing reform as it gathers feedback from Washington Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) and King County's Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee.

What is King County doing to address racial disproportionality in juvenile detention?

Although the number of youth of all races has significantly decreased as the average daily juvenile detention population dropped more than 60 percent over the last decade, the proportion of youth of color, especially black youth, in detention is growing. King County intends to be the first urban region in the United States to decrease its juvenile detention population and the racial disparities within it at the same time. In addition to several actions Juvenile Court and the Prosecuting Attorney's Office are already taking to reduce the number of youth in detention (probation reform, a new JDAI assessment, increasing diversion through the 180 Program, Creative Justice and Restorative Justice), the County is working with youth advocates and community leaders on racial disproportionality through the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee. The committee began meeting monthly in September 2015. For more information on this committee's work, subscribe to KCYouthJustice.com.

What alternatives to secure juvenile detention does King County offer?

  • 180 Program, created in a partnership between the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and community-based leaders, is a diversion program that helps youth have their charges dismissed. Youth can also be paired with mentors after taking the 180 Program workshop. They have helped dismiss the charges of over 5,000 youth since its inception in 2012.
  • Creative Justice is a pilot program that arts agency 4Culture launched in early 2015 in coordination with the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and Superior Court. The program's mentor artists use writing, music, performance, and visual art to increase the participants' understanding of themselves and circumstances that often lead to incarceration. It also strengthens positive decision-making and emotional expression skills that, together, help them avoid future court-involvement.
  • Restorative Mediation sessions are led by mediators who help offenders understand the full impacts of their actions directly from victims and find the community-based support they need to stay out of the criminal justice system in the future.
  • Community Accountability Board (CAB) interviews offending youth and his or her parents, then determines a constructive accountability plan. A program monitor follows up to make sure the accountability plan is successfully completed.
  • Drug Court allows juveniles charged with an offense who have alcohol or drug problems to participate in a 9- to 24-month program that includes early, continuous and intensive court-monitored treatment. This approach motivates participants to finish their mandatory treatment, maintain school or employment, complete community service and other court-ordered conditions. If a juvenile successfully completes the Drug Court program, their charges are dismissed.

Will youth in detention have access to school and tutors?

Yes. Today, youth in detention already spend most of their day in school classes operated by Seattle Public Schools with the aid of tutors and volunteers. Programs such as PONGO, which teaches creative writing, engage with youth at the center at least once a week. The current detention center also has an official King County Library site inside it staffed by County librarians. The future facility will enhance access to school instruction by creating more space for school instruction and creative workshops.

Will the juvenile detention center be operated by a private company?

No, it will be operated by King County's Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention.

Does King County or the project contractor receive incentives for keeping more youth in detention?

No. King County does not receive any financial benefit from putting more youth in detention and is financially incentivized to reduce incarceration. For the last decade, King County has decreased the number of youth in detention from about 200 a day to an average of 50 to 60 in 2015. King County is financially and morally motivated to see these population decreases continue.

Will this be a second youth detention center in King County, or is this a replacement facility?

This will be a replacement facility with 100 fewer detention beds. The current juvenile detention facility will be torn down in 2020 to make way for the new center's parking structure.

Why do we need a new juvenile and dependency court building?

The detention and courthouse facilities at the Youth Services Center are in need of more than $40 million in repairs and core system replacements just to remain safe and functional. In the meantime, problems with aging roofs, windows, pipes and drainage systems are being patched with inefficient, short-term fixes that are only growing more expensive to address over time. Brown water comes out of the facility's faucets.  After estimating the costs of a full renovation, the King County Executive, Superior Court and County Council decided that it was time to replace the center altogether. In 2012, King County voters agreed when they passed a $210 million levy for its replacement.

The current juvenile courthouse opened in 1972 with space for five courtrooms. Over the years, the facility has been continually reconfigured and now contains seven permanent courtrooms and a conference room is used as an eighth courtroom as needed. As a result, courtrooms and waiting areas are undersized and overcrowded, resulting in a noisy, hectic, confusing, and stressful environment.

Space for on-site youth and family resources and programs is extremely limited and difficult to access. For example, offices for the Parents for Parents program could only be reached through a courtroom when hearings were not in session at the current Youth Services Center.

What is Dependency Court?

Much of the work at the Youth Services Center today involves child welfare cases, also known as dependency cases. Children may be removed from their home due to concerns about safety, such as violence in the home, abandonment, neglect, or a parent with substance-abuse issues. Dependency Court works to connect parents with social service agencies that will help them reunite with their children. The goal is to support parents enough to eventually dismiss the case. But, in cases in which a parent may be incapable of safely raising a child, the court may place the child with a suitable adult - preferably a relative - continued foster care, or an adoptive family.

Why does there need to be more court space?

Sadly, the number of dependency cases has increased sharply. Case numbers in King County jumped 54% from 608 in 2009 to 937 in 2014. This has led to more hearings and longer wait times. The crowded Youth Services Center is inadequate for families who could spend all day in the courthouse. Bathrooms have no changing tables for infants and brown water comes out of faucets. The court's unwelcoming lobby concentrates seating into straight rows, limiting space children can roam while supervised as well as space for personal conversations. The majority of families coming through Dependency Court have faced some form of trauma in their lives and visiting the Youth Services Center only compounds their emotional stress. Spaces for the Parents for Parents Program and other needed services is small and difficult for families to find and access.

What programs will King County offer youth and families involved at court cases at the new center?

  • The Resource Center is open to anyone who needs help finding needed services that are closest to their home. Staff at the center will immediately connect youth and families to recommended services and help set up appointments so that youth and families leave the center with a plan for a better life already in motion.
  • Juvenile Justice 101 teaches parents and youth how to navigate the juvenile court system.
  • Dependency 101 teaches parents how to navigate Dependency Court and take advantage of services.
  • Parents for Parents gives parents who want to regain custody of their children mentorship from parents who have successfully regained custody of their children in the past.
  • The CASA (Court-appointed special advocate) program serves children up to 11 years old who have allegedly been abused and/or neglected. A CASA is a trained volunteer who represents the best interests of children as they are taken through the legal process. The court will try to reunite a family if conditions at home improve sufficiently.
  • Family Treatment Court is an alternative dependency court that specializes in helping parents resolve substance abuse issues so that they can be reunited with their children.
  • About 10,200 square feet of youth program space will be operated by either non-profits or social services to help youth in crisis. King County has not yet chosen what services will operate in the space, but will be issuing a public Request for Information (RFI) to gather input on what services would be best suited for the space.
  • Free child care will be available so parents can focus on their court proceedings without the added stress of supervising young children.

What alternatives to secure juvenile detention does King County offer?

  • 180 Program, created in a partnership between the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and community-based leaders, is a diversion program that helps youth have their charges dismissed. Youth can also be paired with mentors after taking the 180 Program workshop. They have helped dismiss the charges of over 5,000 youth since its inception in 2012.
  • Family Intervention & Restorative Services (FIRS) offers youth arrested for family violence incidents space at an overnight respite center instead of secure detention. FIRS staff offer de-escalation counseling to safely reunite youth with their family. At no cost to them, families are offered in-home family counseling, mental health services, drug and alcohol services, and the Step-Up Program, which specifically addresses adolescent family violence.
  • Peacemaking Circles use a process that aims for restorative justice instead of retribution. Included in the circle are family members, victim advocates, community leaders and mentors so that the youth has a well-rounded support system as they reflect on their past and their future.
  • Creative Justice is a pilot program that arts agency 4Culture launched in early 2015 in coordination with the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and Superior Court. The program's mentor artists use writing, music, performance, and visual art to increase the participants' understanding of themselves and circumstances that often lead to incarceration. It also strengthens positive decision-making and emotional expression skills that, together, help them avoid future court-involvement.
  • Restorative Mediation sessions are led by mediators who help offenders understand the full impacts of their actions directly from victims and find the community-based support they need to stay out of the criminal justice system in the future.
  • Community Accountability Board (CAB) interviews offending youth and his or her parents, then determines a constructive accountability plan. A program monitor follows up to make sure the accountability plan is successfully completed.
  • Drug Court allows juveniles charged with an offense who have alcohol or drug problems to participate in a 9- to 24-month program that includes early, continuous and intensive court-monitored treatment. This approach motivates participants to finish their mandatory treatment, maintain school or employment, complete community service and other court-ordered conditions. If a juvenile successfully completes the Drug Court program, their charges are dismissed.

What kinds of spaces will the Children and Family Justice Center have set aside for families, youth and the surrounding community?

  • The Resource Center is open to anyone who needs help finding needed services that are closest to their home. Staff at the center will immediately connect youth and families to health and human services and help set up appointments so that youth and families leave the center with a plan for a better life already in motion.
  • More youth program space: About 10,200 square feet will be operated by either non-profits or social services to help youth in crisis. King County has not yet chosen what services will operate in the space, but will be issuing a public Request for Information (RFI) to gather input on what services would be best suited for the space.
  • Conference Center: The CFJC's conference center will be set up to allow for community-use after hours and on weekends.

How will the CFJC Resource Center work? Can anyone use it?

The Resource Center is open to anyone who needs help finding needed services that are closest to their home. Staff at the center will immediately connect youth and families to recommended services and help set up appointments so that youth and families leave the center with a plan for a better life already in motion.

What kinds of services will be available in the 10,200 square feet available for youth programs?

An area of the Children and Family Justice Center initially intended to hold 32 detention beds has been converted to non-detention youth program space. The 10,200 square-foot space will instead be operated by programs that help steer youth away from future court-involvement through counseling and other resources. King County is just beginning to assess programs that could operate in the space, and will ask the public for programming proposals and recommendations through a formal Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Proposals (RFP) process. Programs would begin operating in the space when the new center opens in either 2019 or 2020.

The space was freed up for other programs in early 2015, when King County Superior Court's commitment to reform its probation practices allowed King County Executive Dow Constantine to cap the number of CFJC detention beds at 112. This cap will almost cut in half the number of youth detention beds available today (212).

A few other things we know about this youth program space so far:

  • The space will have its own separate entrance so that youth will not have to pass through court or detention facilities to get to their programs.
  • Its entrance will face exterior gardens and the Alder Street Connection's bicycle and pedestrian path, allowing staff and youth to enter and exit freely.
  • Its design can accommodate overnight counseling and treatment programs.
  • By dedicating this space to trauma-informed programs for youth, we hope to see further detention population reductions while improving public safety.
  • An equity analysis that addresses racial disproportionality in the juvenile justice system will help determine programming for the space.
  • The current Youth Services Center has no such space, and the County is dedicated to expanding opportunities to steer youth away from future court-involvement.
  • As the juvenile detention population decreases further, other living halls in the detention center may also be converted to similar non-detention purposes in the future.

How can the community use the CFJC's Conference Center?

The CFJC's conference center room will be set up to allow for after-hours community-use. Community groups will be able to reserve the space and host events and meetings there

What is the Alder Connection?

The Alder Connection re-opens East Alder Street by providing a landscaped pedestrian and bicycle path between 12th Avenue and the residential neighborhood east of 14th Avenue. This pathway is intended to better integrate the site into the neighborhood and will allow for more foot-traffic and activation on 12th Avenue. The space may be used for community events such as a farmer's market in the future.

How many open areas will there be on site?

There will be 1.55 acres of open areas for the public on the Children and Family Justice Center site. This includes space on the Alder Connection, a public plaza facing 12th Avenue, and an area on the northeast edge of the property.

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