In his taped State of the County address King County Executive Dow Constantine sketched out a few more details on his proposals to shut down the King County Correctional Center in Seattle and to shift the newly completed youth jail to other purposes.
Both proposals remain in the future. Constantine said his budget later this year will propose a “phased closing” of the adult jail once the coronavirus pandemic ends, and he wants to remove all youth from detention at the new Children and Family Justice Center by 2025.
There are currently 21 youth in detention at the facility, Constantine said, down from 43 in mid-March. The facility has been the subject of a yearslong battle, with activists opposing its construction, while supporters, including Constantine, argued that the facility it replaced was rundown and inhospitable.
“It will take hard work and determination to keep the youth detention numbers at these historic lows,” Constantine said Friday in the taped address from his West Seattle home to comply with social distancing. “But, with the confidence that we can, I will propose capital funding to further reduce the space available for detention and convert it to therapeutic and community use.”
The adult jail in Seattle, completed in 1986, is “decrepit and expensive to operate,” Constantine said, and “at some point must come down.”
It currently houses 1,300 inmates, down from 1,900 in mid-March, as the county worked to reduce its population to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The county has another adult jail, the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, which it does not intend to close.
Constantine said he also intends to send the Best Starts for Kids levy back to voters in 2021. The nearly $400 million early childhood learning measure was approved by voters in 2015.
“We should build on our successful work helping young people with child care, staying in school, and navigating the difficult transition to young adulthood,” Constantine said, saying levy funding has reached nearly 250,000 children.
And Constantine said that the county’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks, headquartered in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, would instruct its more than 800 workers to work from home.
He said the department could act as a pilot to see if remote work could be made permanent for more county employees.