King County committee to examine racial disparity in juvenile justice system

A new countywide steering committee will recommend solutions to a growing racial disparity in the regional juvenile justice system.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Wednesday, July 29, 2015 5:13pm
  • News
Calvin Watts

Calvin Watts

King County Executive Dow Constantine on Wednesday joined with Superior Court Presiding Judge Susan Craighead and members of the County Council to announce members of a countywide steering committee charged with recommending solutions to a growing racial disparity in the regional juvenile justice system.

Calvin J. Watts, the new Kent School District superintendent, is one of the 32 members. It is the largest and most diverse group King County has ever assembled to act on juvenile justice issues.

“Racial disparity has no place in our justice system, especially not in a system responsible for the well-being of our youth,” said Constantine in a county media release. “Making the system impervious to the mostly unacknowledged, but nevertheless real biases that each of us carries with us is a tall order, and will require the partnership of everyone in our community.”

“There is an urgent need to redefine how the juvenile justice system works,” said Judge Craighead. “Lasting and effective reform depends on collaborative, community-informed actions to end racial disproportionalities in school discipline, arrest, and detention rates.”

Among the members of the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee are parents, youth, mental-health and grassroots leaders. They are teaming up with the heads of school districts, law enforcement agencies and courts from across the county, including Seattle Police Department Chief Kathleen O’Toole, Highline School District Superintendent Susan Enfield, and Juvenile Court Judge Wesley Saint Clair. The panel includes youth who have experienced juvenile detention themselves, youth mentors, a foster parent and community-based advocates fighting to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by increasing effective alternatives to school suspensions and youth detention.

The committee is being asked to develop recommendations for improving the outcomes of school, police, court and detention policies. The group will begin meeting in September to:

• Establish short- and long-term actions to help end racial disproportionality in King County’s juvenile justice system

• Define metrics and create partnerships to improve juvenile justice system

• Identify root causes of racial disproportionality and specific solutions needed to address them in individual communities

• Engage communities by sharing information, then collecting and incorporating feedback

Members will eventually host community meetings to engage those most impacted by the juvenile justice system to inform their recommendations.

“It is imperative that this steering committee creates a new paradigm that moves us away from further criminalizing our children – especially youth of color – and moves King County towards creating equitable opportunities for all,” said King County Councilmember Larry Gossett. “Our history consists of watershed moments where it’s been more important for us to change; this is one of those moments.”

“Most of the kids getting locked up are kids of color,” said King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. “We need to explore why this is occurring and what the county needs to do to ensure fairness at every step of the process.”

Although King County’s youth detention rates have dropped more than 60 percent over the last decade, the proportion of youth of color in detention continues to rise. While only a tenth of the county’s youth population is black, they almost made up half of the youth detention population last year. About three quarters of the overall 2014 detention population were non-white youth.

Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee

Youth & Parents

Sean Goode, Matt Griffin YMCA Director of Youth and Family Programs, YMCA of Greater Seattle

Georgina Ramirez, former Youth Development Specialist at the Mockingbird Society, Senior Leadership Development Director, YMCA of Greater Seattle

Jaleel Hayes, Youth

Kadeem McLaurin, Youth

Jaelonie Ayers, Youth

Tess Thomas, foster parent


Larry Nyland, Superintendent, Seattle Public Schools

Susan Enfield, Superintendent, Highline Public Schools

Calvin J. Watts, Superintendent, Kent School District

Tammy Campbell, Superintendent, Federal Way Public Schools

Kendrick Glover, President, Glover Empower Mentoring Program

Community Leaders

Dustin Washington, Community Justice Program Director, American Friends Service Committee

Sorya Svy, Executive Director, SafeFutures

Ricardo Ortega, Political Organizer, LELO (Legacy of Equality, Leadership, and Organizing)

Jacque Larrainzar, LGBTQ Refugee/Immigrant Outreach Specialist, Seattle Counseling Service

Dr. Gary Perry, Sociology Professor, Seattle University

Anne Lee, Executive Director, TeamChild

Joey Gray, Executive Director, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation

Community Involvement

Dominique Davis, Program Coordinator, 180 Program

Natalie Green, State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)

Dr. Heather Clark, Rainier Scholar, Cultural Anthropologist at University of Washington


Dr. Edward Donaldson, Pastor, Kingdom Family Worship Center

Benjamin Shabazz, Imam, Muslim community leader

Justice Systems

Dan Satterberg, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, King County

Judge Susan Craighead, Presiding Judge, King County Superior Court

Judge Wesley Saint Clair, Chief Juvenile Court Judge, King County Superior Court

Twyla Carter, Public Defender, King County

Mental Health

Dr. Eric Trupin, Director and Vice Chair, University of Washington Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Roy Fisher, Program Manager, Navos Child Youth and Family Department, Member of Navos Equity and Inclusion Committee

Law Enforcement

Kathleen O’Toole, Chief, Seattle Police Department

John Urquhart, King County Sheriff

Mike Villa, Chief, Tukwila Police Department

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