National conference selects King County as site of annual conference, spotlights Zero Youth Detention

Each year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation hosts a national conference for the over 300 jurisdictions in 40 states that have signed on to implement its Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).

This year, the conference was hosted in King County, from October 16-18, in part to showcase the work of King County’s Zero Youth Detention and essential community partnerships.

“I started volunteering. I found community, and they saw gifts in me I didn’t know I had,” said Durell Green, describing to conference attendees the transition that took him from time in juvenile detention to now working as a Community Navigator with King County diversion program Choose 180.

Choose 180 Community Navigator Durell Green speaks to national juvenile legal system leaders as part of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative conference held in King County.

“King County’s efforts to reform the justice system are very much aligned with Justice for Families’ mission and goals,” said conference attendee Jeannette Bocanegra, Director of Family Partnerships for national organization Justice for Families. “I’m a parent of a young person who experienced this horrible system. When you hold a child by the hand, you have the parent by the heart. Programs and services that can strengthen the development of a young person and their families have my full respect and unconditional support.”

JDAI is a framework, plus technical assistance, to guide jurisdictions in utilizing alternatives to juvenile detention.

“The hope is that zero detention is the goal for every county and jurisdiction,” said James Ramos, who attended from Ventura County Probation, in California. “The work in King County seems to be ahead of what most are doing. I was grateful to walk away with some tools that will help us close the gaps we now face, along with the support of those striving for the same goals we share.”

The Zero Youth Detention team wasn’t just sharing, but also learning. “King County is not alone in trying to transform the juvenile legal system,” said Derrick Wheeler-Smith, Zero Youth Detention Director. “It was great to learn more about what’s happening in San Francisco, where the county is closing the juvenile detention center, and Milwaukee, where the Mayor declared racism a public health epidemic. We are not heroes leading this work, but hosts bringing partners and community to the table to solve deeply entrenched injustices.”