July 24, 2012
Vote yes for juvenile justice center
The juvenile justice center is where we hope few Issaquah 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 kept in close quarters, and that can make for a powder keg. Conference rooms are small and overused, forcing private conversations into public.
And the place is falling apart. The water is brown, ventilation systems don’t work, and the county spends about $1.5 million a year on 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, helping create efficiencies by bringing family law and juvenile law together. It will also free space in the main courthouse, staving off a potential space crunch as population grows.
The new center is being designed with growth in mind. Typically 60 to 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 locking up a portion of the worst-offending population of 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 help defray costs. And by using a short-term levy, instead of a longer-term bond, the county can take advantage of historically low short-term interest rates.
Yes, the center is expensive, but it’s necessary, well considered and worth the price. Vote yes on Proposition 1.