Leading with racial equity

Logo for Road Map objective 1 - lead with racial equity

icon_equityAny discussion of criminal “justice” happens in the context of the historical and ongoing systemic racism operating at every level of society in the U.S. This seen and unseen racial discrimination affects people of color through all structures and systems including, but not limited to, housing, health care, education, economics, and the juvenile legal system.

Although all families involved with the juvenile legal system experience conflict and crisis, youth of color experience marginalization from social institutions, over-policing, and oppression in ways White youth do not. The consequences of this intergenerational trauma result in cumulative disadvantages for communities of color. Without intentionally taking measures to recognize and address this historical racism and its legacy, progress toward Zero Youth Detention will be impossible.


The Road Map calls for applying a racial equity lens to legal system policies at every decision point to ensure that, until the need for secure detention of youth is eliminated, it is a last resort and not a result of racism and bias. Through its Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) Strategic Plan, King County has begun this work and the Road Map will build on and connect to existing ESJ efforts.

The next portion of the Diving into the Road Map blog series will further explore the strategies and action items of this objective:

Objective 1: Lead

Lead with racial equity

By leading with racial justice in the work of Zero Youth Detention, all stakeholders involved with the juvenile legal system are being called to commit to addressing systemic institutional racism and bias and to align efforts through this deeply challenging work.


  1. Identify and eliminate policies that result in racial disproportionality
  2. Invest in the workforce

Example Action Items

  • Implement a racial equity impact analysis on current and future policies and practices
  • Emphasize and expand the recruitment, hiring, and retention of culturally reflective staff at all levels

In the meantime, you can read more about this objective in the Road Map report.