City issues decision on Children and Family Justice Center

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections has issued a decision regarding an application from King County to construct a four-story Children and Family Justice Center that will replace the current youth court and detention center at 1211 E. Alder St. A four-story parking structure with 360 stalls is also part of the project.

Voters approved a nine-year property tax lid lift to replace the aging Youth Services Center in Seattle's Central District in 2012. The estimated cost at the time was $210 million.

The county council approved authorizing King County Executive Dow Constantine to execute a phase one contract with the Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC) design-builder last February, which included four construction alternates.

The master use permit was submitted last August, and the following month the Seattle City Council approved legislation calling for the end of juvenile detention in the city as recommended by Seattle's Office for Civil Rights in its Racial Equity Analysis of the CFJC. The plan is to reduce incarceration costs — estimated at $95,805 per youth for every year of imprisonment — and racial disparity in those incarcerations through "evidence-based alternatives to detention."

Anticipating the SDCI would issue its decision, activists went to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's Capitol Hill residence on Tuesday, Dec. 20, requesting he block the issuing of permits to King County for the new youth jail and courthouse. Murray released a statement the next day, which can be viewed in the sidebar of this story. Murray states as mayor he does not have the authority to intervene with SDCI's decision making based on any policy concerns.

Those opposing youth incarceration argue the rate of youth's being jailed in King County is on the decline, and funding would be better used to support youth than jailing them. An online petition asking Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine to stop the project can be viewed here.