Juvenile Justice System Update

October 2015

Dear friends,

Through my work on juvenile justice and racial equity issues, I have learned that despite a 60+ percent drop over the past decade in the number of kids the county is locking up, the proportion of youth of color in jail continues to rise. While black youth make up ten percent of the current county population, nearly half of the kids in the county jail are black. Nearly three quarters of the kids locked up are non-white youth. This is a sign of complicated systemic challenges. We need to address this racial disproportionality in our juvenile justice system.

In response, I have taken action. Specifically, I have within the last year:

  • secured funding to the Sheriff's Office to improve its recruitment efforts so the police force can better reflect the diversity of the communities it serves;

  • sponsored a ballot measure to amend the county charter (constitution) to strengthen our civilian Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO);

  • introduced a proposal to require King County Sheriff's deputies to wear body cameras;

  • helped develop a ballot measure called Best Starts for Kids that if approved by voters, will raise significant funding for prevention services for at-risk youth;

  • advanced legislation to make youth enforcement on metro buses more fair and reasonable;

  • joined fellow King County leaders in creating a high-level steering committee to make additional recommendations to reduce racial disproportionality in our juvenile justice system.

This work must be done in partnership with the community. Recently, I organized and co-hosted a local meeting of South King County community leaders with Chief Juvenile Judge J. Wesley Saint Clair to connect folks in our community with the South King County members of the steering committee. It was an opportunity to learn more about the current juvenile justice work in our community and identify ways the broader community can inform the steering committee process.


To learn more about the about the work King County and its partners are doing to try to reduce the number of kids locked up, and to reduce this racial disproportionality, visit http://kcyouthjustice.com/.

Please feel free to contact me with questions on this or other county issues. I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.



Dave Upthegrove
Councilmember, District 5
Metropolitan King County Council
516 Third Ave, Suite 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 477-1005