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Dow Constantine proposes 2 centers for King County youth accused of minor crimes

Under continued pressure over plans to build a new youth jail, the King County Executive on Monday proposed two new community centers where youth accused of lesser offenses could be taken instead of jail.

Facing continued opposition to plans to build a new youth jail and courthouse, King County Executive Dow Constantine Monday proposed creating two new centers where juveniles accused of lesser offenses could receive services instead of detention.

Making his annual State of the County address in Auburn, Constantine said the “Safe Spaces” proposal is modeled on a successful program in Portland and would connect youth to housing, education and other services designed to get them back on track.

“King County’s leaders are united in pushing forward with the best ideas in juvenile-justice reform as we walk this road together,” Constantine said.

The “Safe Spaces,” also known as reception centers, would not take the place of the planned, new, juvenile-justice complex that includes a 112-unit detention facility, as well as courtrooms for juveniles and family-law clients and attorneys.

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Voters approved a $210 million levy for the new youth jail and courthouse in 2012 to replace the aging juvenile-justice facility in the Central Area. But some community members have opposed the plan, saying minority youth are disproportionately incarcerated and should receive support and services instead.

Some politicians, including Seattle City Council Member Bruce Harrell and County Council member Rod Dembowski, have also called for the plans to be scrapped.

A hearing examiner earlier this month turned down what was believed to be the final appeal of the building permits for the new facility, saying the city permits weren’t subject to appeal.

But Monday, the city reversed course and asked the hearing examiner to reconsider that ruling, saying the City Council intended that the…

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