Vote yes for the new juvenile justice center
August 1, 2012
At first glance, the Aug. 14 ballot request to build a new King County Juvenile Justice Center might seem overly expensive at $200 million. While pricey, the proposed levy represents a good deal for King County taxpayers.
The Juvenile Justice Center is where we hope few North Bend and Snoqualmie families ever have to go. The center houses courtrooms where minors are tried, and a jail for underage offenders.
Calling current conditions poor is an understatement. The existing building is cramped. Designed decades ago, the courts and conference rooms are small and don’t meet today’s needs.
Often, people on opposite sides of a hearing are in close quarters, and that can make for a powder keg. Conference rooms are small, forcing private conversations into public.
And the place is falling apart. The water is brown, ventilation systems don’t work, and it costs $1.5 million each year for maintenance.
The proposed facility is an opportunity for a redesign. The number of courtrooms will go from seven to 10, and spaces will accommodate modern needs.
The extra courtrooms will move family law courts from the county courthouse, creating efficiencies by bringing family law and juvenile law together. It will also free up space in the main courthouse, staving off a potential space crunch as the population grows.
The new center will be designed with growth in mind. Typically 60-80 juveniles are held in the jail there — most youths are placed in alternative sentencing programs. The new facility will hold about 150 inmates, leaving space for a growing population of worst-offending juveniles.
The county hopes to leverage the sale of some of the land where the center sits — on 12th Avenue in Seattle’s Central District — to defray costs. And by using a short-term levy, instead of a longer-term bond, the county can take advantage of historically low interest rates.
Yes, the center is expensive, but it’s necessary, well-considered and worth the price. Vote yes on Proposition 1.