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Dow Constantine proposes 2 centers for King County youth accused of minor crimes

Under continued pressure over plans to build a new youth jail, the King County Executive Monday proposed two new community centers where youth accused of lesser offenses can be taken instead of jail.

Facing continued opposition to plans to build a new youth jail and courthouse, King County Executive Dow Constantine Monday proposed creating two new centers where juveniles accused of lesser offenses could receive services instead of detention.

Making his annual “State of the County” address in Auburn, Constantine said the “Safe Spaces” proposal is modeled on a successful Program in Portland and would connect youth and their family to housing, education and other services designed to get the youth back on track.

“King County’s leaders are united in pushing forward with the best ideas in juvenile-justice reform as we walk this road together,” Constantine said.

The executive said that shouting, “Zero youth detention,” as some protesters have done over the past few years, “is not a plan.” Nor, he said, are county assurances that government will do better.

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He did not detail costs for the proposal, or where the funding would come from, but county staff said a plan would be sent to the County Council later this spring.

County voters in 2012 approved a $210 million property tax levy to pay for a new juvenile-justice complex. About one-fourth of the costs would go toward a new youth-detention facility, with the remainder going to rebuild the badly deteriorated juvenile court facilities, including meeting rooms and offices for probation staff, lawyers and judges.

A Seattle hearing examiner in March turned down an appeal by opponents of the city’s approval of building permits for the youth-jail project.

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