Using a Public Health Approach to Reach Zero Youth Detention


by Kate Cole


This submit is re-published with permission. It initially appeared on PublicHealthInsider.com. The Public Health Insider offers well timed, attention-grabbing, behind-the-scenes information about efforts to defend the well being and well-being of all folks in Seattle and King County. It’s written by members of the Communications Team at Public Health – Seattle & King County, with contributions from the numerous specialists who work all through the division’s 5 divisions. For extra about Public Health – Seattle & King County, please see their official web site.

When most individuals take into consideration public well being, the juvenile authorized system isn’t what comes to thoughts. That’s comprehensible – throughout the nation, native well being jurisdictions have had little involvement with the juvenile authorized system*. That was the case in King County, too, up till November 2017, when King County Executive Dow Constantine introduced Zero Youth Detention – a shared imaginative and prescient to not solely additional scale back using safe detention for youth in King County, however to launch this county on the journey to remove it – and he tasked Public Health – Seattle & King County with main the hassle.

Detention removes youth from their household and trusted neighborhood. “Diversion” applications can present supportive companies to youth whereas preserving them of their neighborhood, serving to maintain youth accountable whereas… Click To Tweet

Zero Youth Detention program director Derrick Wheeler-Smith explains, this work is a pure match for Public Health: “Look at the numbers of young people – particularly black and brown young men – whose lives are derailed, uprooted and cut short by the legal system. If people got sick with a disease at the same rate, and with the same negative impacts, we’d call it an epidemic and we’d want the Public Health department to take action. That’s the approach we’re taking in King County.”

While led by Public Health, Zero Youth Detention is a collaboration among the many many businesses that make up the juvenile authorized system, social service suppliers, and neighborhood organizations.

What is a “public health approach” to the juvenile authorized system?

Research reveals that youth have a higher likelihood at constructive maturity after they don’t work together with the authorized system. A public well being method means using prevention and intervention methods that remove the necessity for juvenile detention and promote the well-being of all youth. Here’s what that appears like for Zero Youth Detention:

Leading with racial fairness 

Although all households concerned with the juvenile authorized system expertise battle and disaster, youth of colour expertise marginalization from social establishments, over-policing, and oppression in methods white youth don’t. As total numbers of youth in detention in King County have decreased, racial and ethnic disparities – in different phrases, over-representation of youth of colour and Native youth in contrast to white youth – has remained. Therefore, we’re main our efforts to obtain Zero Youth Detention with racial fairness. We’re calling on all stakeholders concerned with the juvenile authorized system to commit to establish and remove insurance policies that contribute to racial disproportionality.

Despite reductions in youth detention in King County, youth of colour and Native youth are 5 occasions extra seemingly to be detained than white youth.

Science-based & trauma-informed

Brain science tells us that adolescence is a interval when children take part in dangerous habits, and this tendency could be exacerbated if a younger particular person has a historical past of trauma.

What’s extra, analysis reveals that youth detention has a profoundly destructive affect on younger folks’s psychological and bodily wellbeing, their schooling and employment. We additionally know that alternate options to detention, like restorative justice, scale back recidivism and create higher satisfaction for victims in contrast to conventional detention.

Research reveals little relationship between youth incarceration and total youth crime in the neighborhood. King County’s expertise mirrors the analysis, with youth felony circumstances lowering concurrently we’ve diminished using safe detention for youth.

We’re utilizing this info to create evidence-based interventions and helps that maintain younger folks accountable and put them on a path to success. Read concerning the first juvenile felony case in King County to be tried utilizing a peace circle and about therapeutic alternate options to detention for youth charged with household violence.

youth detention King County

Rimon and his mom each invested within the first King County Juvenile Court felony case to be resolved by a peacemaking circle, a course of impressed by Native American traditions.

We’re additionally monitoring knowledge to measure our progress and the place we’d like to do higher. Check out the Zero Youth Detention Data Dashboard to observe together with our metrics.

Partnering with neighborhood

Detention removes youth from their household and trusted neighborhood. “Diversion” applications can present supportive companies to youth whereas preserving them of their neighborhood, serving to maintain youth accountable whereas diverting them from arrest or quotation and detention.

As a a part of Zero Youth Detention, we’re working with and funding neighborhood companions to broaden culturally-based diversion choices till these grow to be the first response for youth who come into contact with the authorized system. Learn extra by studying about Choose 180 and Creative Justice, community-based alternate options to detention receiving King County funding.

youth detention King County

Sean Goode is Executive Director of Choose 180, a program that diverts youth away from the juvenile authorized system and towards supportive mentorship.

Prevention is the cornerstone of public well being, and a main element of Zero Youth Detention’s method is intervening upstream to construct on neighborhood strengths and forestall youth from ever interacting with the juvenile authorized system. This means working with companions to enhance college self-discipline practices and increasing entry to behavioral well being companies.

Partnering with neighborhood additionally means supporting households of youth with authorized involvement. Based on household suggestions, we’re enhancing communication to assist households navigate the authorized system, offering transportation help to allow them to attend hearings and go to youth in detention, and including video visitation to assist households keep linked with youth in detention.

Closing ideas

Zero Youth Detention is a daring and sophisticated purpose. “In order to be successful, we have to change the system from one that asks children ‘what did you do wrong?’ to one that builds on community strengths,” ZYD Program Director Wheeler-Smith explains. “We must prioritize youth and families in decision-making. As we center their voices and build on their strength and experience, it will help us understand what it means to truly honor and celebrate the cultural identities of the largely black and brown youth and families impacted by the legal system. Let’s make our goal for our young people the same success, health and happiness we’d want for our own children and families.”

*A word about phrases: Due to historic injustices and inequities skilled within the ‘justice system’ by many historically underrepresented teams, Zero Youth Detention makes use of the time period “legal system” as an alternative of “justice system.”

Learn extra


Kate Cole has over ten years of expertise participating communities in public well being, environmental, and social change work. She leads relationship administration and engagement technique for City of Seattle land use and transportation tasks, together with Waterfront Seattle, the Westlake Cycle Track, and the Mercer Corridor Project. In 2013, she was awarded a federal ORISE fellowship, by which she coordinated partnership methods on the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, Office of Health Communication and Education. She acquired her MPH from the University of Washington in 2012.



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