Supporting Policy that Supports Zero Youth Detention

Zero Youth Detention supports policy reform that improves the lives of youth, children, and families and reduces legal system involvement. Policy reform falls under the Road Map’s 5th objective to align and optimize connections between systems to increase effectiveness. Right now, this means that King County staff are educating and testifying in collaboration with partners to support a number of bills being considered during the current state legislature session.

Olympia state capitol building, where state legislature meets.

The Bills*

HB 1434 and SB 5290: Reforming Becca laws, and preventing the use of detention as a temporary placement for runaway foster youth. Eliminating the use of the valid court order exception to place youth in detention for noncriminal behavior.

HB 1246 and SB 5429: Establishing community juvenile accountability program guidelines, allowing the use of state diversion funds pre-adjudication, thus helping youth before they are in the court system. Revising the juvenile justice act of 1977.

HB 1106: Including referred and diverted youth in establishing community juvenile accountability program guidelines. Providing increased opportunities for truant youth to access services and treatment, and eliminating the use of detention for a violation of a truancy-related court order.

SB 5182: Concerning juvenile record sealing. Proposing for courts to hold regular periodic hearings for youth’s records to be sealed upon completing their responsibilities to the court and/or turning 18 for lesser non-violent or sexual offenses.

*a proposed bill often shows up in two different forms–one in the House of Representatives (HB) and one in the Senate (SB). Ultimately one bill must pass through both chambers in order for it to become law. 

Partnership and Support

King County is working in coalition with partners to support a number of the above bills. For example, King County is working with Justice for Girls Coalition for Washington and Mockingbird Society in support of HB 1434 and SB 5290. Support can look like the following actions:

  • Speak with legislators or legislative aides to help provide education and address their concerns
  • Research existing data and resources to take a position to advocate for or against a bill
  • King County department staff provide expertise and perspective regarding legislation, including potential impacts and unintended consequences
  • Support the voices of community by engaging and including them in the process
  • Testify before committees

The Senate Ways & Means Committee heard testimony on February 13 which you can see HERE.

  • At the 1 hour, 3 minute and 37 second marker, Celia Jackson, King County Deputy Director of Government Relations testifies in support of SB 5290

The House Human Services and Early Learning Committee heard testimony on February 1 related to HB 1434 which you can see HERE.

  • At the 1 hour, 3 minute and 30 second marker, Celia Jackson, King County Deputy Director of Government Relations testifies in support of HB 1434
  • At the 1 hour, 16 minute and 46 second marker, Haydee Vargas, King County Public Defender testifies in support of HB 1434

The Senate Human Services, Reentry and Rehabilitation Committee heard testimony on January 23 related to SB 5290 and SB 5182 which you can see HERE.

  • At the 1 hour, 30 minute and 50 second marker, Marcus Stubblefield, King County Criminal Justice Manager testifies in support

Policy and Systems Change

Detention removes youth from normative developmental experiences, learning from peers, family and trusted community members, and traditionally emphasizes behavioral management and sanctions over skill building.  There is no solid evidence that detaining youth necessarily leads to safer outcomes for youth.

Brain science tells us that adolescence is a period when the emotional response and relational connections systems mature faster than the cognitive, executive control systems. As such, adolescents typically make decisions for immediate emotional and social rewards, not deliberate intention to harm.

A trauma-informed perspective tells us that youth who have experienced early life adversity and complex trauma tend to have quickly reactive emotional response systems as this is adaptive to the early life stress.

For these reasons and many more, Zero Youth Detention is committed to influencing policies and legislation so that policies and systems equitably address the needs of youth and families most affected.