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King County will stop putting youths in adult jail

Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, Washington.
Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, Washington.

Youth charged as adults in King County will no longer be detained at the Regional Justice Center in Kent.

County Executive Dow Constantine signed an order Thursday effectively ending a practice that many youth justice advocates said was inhumane.

Under the order, all youth charged as adults will be detained at the Youth Services Center in Seattle, except in an emergency. The county says five juveniles have already been moved and 15 still detained in Kent will be moved to Seattle by March.

In a statement Executive Dow Constantine says the shift is in line with the counties commitment to juvenile justice reform. “By moving youth charged as adults to the Youth Services Center, we are able to offer age-appropriate programs and services to help them get back on track,” Constantine said.

The move comes after a report from the University of Washington Medical School advised that the situation was detrimental and could worsen mental health conditions.

And last week a federal lawsuit was filed in Seattle on behalf of four youth being held in the facility. The lawsuit, filed in King County District Court by Columbia Legal Services, says the teens get little education and spend most of their time in their cells.

Attorneys for the teens released a statement that while the move is encouraging, youths remain in isolation and major flaws remain in the way the county treats young people caught up in the criminal justice system.