King County is committed to cultivating  communities where residents are safe and free from systemic oppression and marginalization. Learn more about why Zero Youth Detention is a priority for the County.


All youth in King County deserve to grow into happy, healthy adults. Research shows that youth have a better chance at positive adulthood when they don’t interact with the juvenile legal system. Zero Youth Detention calls for partnering with youth, families, employees, and communities and building on their strengths so that communities are safe, legal system involvement is limited or avoidable, and all youth have the opportunity to be happy, healthy, safe, and thriving.

The Road Map to Zero Youth Detention

The Road Map to Zero Youth Detention is King County’s strategic plan to not only further reduce the use of secure detention for youth, but to launch this County on a journey to eliminate it. Building on 20 years of reducing the secure detention population, this region begins the journey to Zero Youth Detention with momentum. Informed by youth and their families, communities, and employees whose work touches the lives of youth, the Road Map outlines practical solutions designed to improve community safety, help young people thrive, keep them from entering the juvenile legal system, divert them from further legal system involvement, and support strong, unified communities.

Learn more and view the the Road Map ➜

A Public Health Approach to Zero Youth Detention

In November 2017, the King County Executive called for using a public health approach as part of King County’s commitment to review juvenile detention and advance the goal of zero youth detention.Through this approach, community and system partners come together to promote the positive development and well-being of all youth, expand the use of the best evidence and promising practices on adolescent development, and ensure that the collective response to youth in crisis restores them on a path towards well-being.

Public Health – Seattle & King County is leading through a trauma-informed lens. This means that the strategies and actions in the Road Map will respond to the impacts of trauma and adversity in the lives of youth involved in the juvenile legal system and those who have been harmed when crimes occur. Building protective factors, resilience, and making other supports available help to mitigate the impacts of trauma.

View examples of the public health approach➜

Restorative Justice

A key component of Zero Youth Detention is accountability for harmful behavior that happens swiftly and in a restorative way. The concept of restorative justice brings together those harmed by criminal behavior, those who cause the harm, and the larger involved community to discuss how they have been affected and what should be done to repair the harm. When done most effectively, restorative justice is a community-based approach to accountability, safety, and healing.


Further resources:

Cover image: Spirit of Our Youth, by Marvin Oliver (Cast bronze, 1996)